Essential functions evidence defeats courier's claims under ADA
Case name: Verrocchio v. Federal Express Corp., No. 3:09-cv-1376 (N.D.N.Y. 03/03/11).
Ruling: The U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York granted summary judgment to an employer on a courier's claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
What it means: Although a temporarily defined leave of absence may constitute a reasonable accommodation under the ADA of 1990, an employer is not required to place a worker on indefinite leave. A leave of absence that is a reasonable accommodation must enable the employee to perform the essential functions of his job.
A courier was involved in a motor vehicle accident while working. As a result, he was placed on medical leave and received workers' compensation benefits. When he attempted to return to work, he was unable to perform his job. He underwent an independent medical evaluation, which concluded that he could not perform the duties of a courier but could do light duty. He twice was asked to participate in the company's temporary return-to-work program but did not report either time. Because of this, he was terminated. The courier sued under the ADA of 1990. The U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York granted summary judgment to the employer.
Because he was restricted in his lifting, and his right arm was unavailable for work, evidence showed the courier could not perform the essential functions of his position. The court interpreted the courier's complaint to assert that he should have been granted a leave of absence as a reasonable accommodation. However, doctor's notes he submitted did not "provide sufficient definiteness of duration" or show how additional leave would have enabled him to perform the essential functions of the position. Additionally, the court found the request was the equivalent of a request for indefinite leave, which is not a reasonable accommodation.
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April 25, 2011
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