Longshoreman's removal from work list doesn't establish pretext
Case name: Bailey v. Greenwich Terminals, LLC, No. 10-1122 (E.D. Pa. 01/25/12).
Ruling: The U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted summary judgment to a terminal operator on a longshoreman's Americans with Disabilities Act claims.
What it means: According to this court, the proper venue for resolving a dispute about a worker's medical condition and his ability to return to work is through his workers' compensation claim.
Summary: A union longshoreman for a terminal operator injured his shoulder and upper back while driving a machine at work. Due to this, he stopped working and began receiving workers' compensation payments. Over the course of several months, his doctor examined him and placed restrictions on him. Eventually, he was cleared to work by two doctors, but he did not return based on a third doctor's opinion. Because of this, he was removed from the terminal list, a system for determining which longshoremen received work on a daily basis. Later, he returned to work and took "small jobs." He sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted summary judgment to the terminal operator. It found that the longshoreman did not show that the terminal operator's removing him from the terminal list was pretext for discrimination.
The terminal operator argued that the longshoreman was removed from the terminal list because he did not return to work when he was cleared. The longshoreman asserted that he did not return to work because he believed his doctor did not clear him to work and that he communicated this to management. The court found his argument "misplaced," explaining that it did not establish that the terminal operator removed him from the list because of his disability. Instead, it explained that the proper venue for resolving the dispute about his medical condition was through his workers' compensation claim.
The longshoreman also argued that he attempted to return to work doing modified-duty assignments, only to get "complaints from the foreman." However, this did not establish pretext because when he was cleared for work, he did not attempt to work in the position the terminal operator offered him as an accommodation.
The court explained that the longshoreman's arguments did not establish that the terminal operator's reason for removing him from the terminal list was "so plainly wrong" that it could not have been the real reason.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
April 16, 2012
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