Physician assistant not entitled to job restructuring after workplace injury
Case name: Desmond v. Yale-New Haven Hospital, Inc., No. 3:08-CV-346 (VLB) (D. Conn. 09/10/10).
Ruling: The U.S. District Court, District of Connecticut granted summary judgment on a physician assistant's claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. She failed to establish that she could perform the essential functions of her position with or without reasonable accommodation.
What it means: An employee who cannot perform the essential functions of her job with or without accommodations after a workplace injury will not be able to show her termination violated the ADA of 1990.
Summary: A physician assistant for a hospital slipped and fell at work, seriously injuring both hands. Due to pain and swelling, she was restricted from working by her doctor. The hospital paid disability benefits. She took Family and Medical Leave Act leave. When her leave expired, she still experienced pain and discomfort that prevented her from returning to work. The hospital terminated her, claiming that she was unable to perform her job with or without a reasonable accommodation. The physician assistant sued, claiming that the hospital discriminated against her in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The U.S. District Court, District of Connecticut granted summary judgment to the hospital.
The court explained that evidence did not show that she could meet the requirements of her job without assistance or that an accommodation existed that would permit her to perform the job's essential functions. The evidence indicated that she could not perform "numerous physical duties that required use of her hands."
The physician assistant argued that the hospital was obligated to assign some of her tasks to other employees and provide her medical treatment. The court rejected both arguments. It explained that while job restructuring is a possible reasonable accommodation under the ADA, an employer is not required to reallocate essential functions. In the court's view, the physician assistant's job restructuring would involve the elimination of essential functions from her job.
The court also rejected the physician assistant's claim that the hospital needed to provide her medical treatment as a reasonable accommodation. According to the court, evidence did not show that such treatment proposed or referenced any change in the work environment or involved the removal of workplace barriers. The court noted that she received medical treatment through the workers' compensation process.
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December 9, 2010
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