The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits workplace discrimination against any employee with an actual or perceived disability and requires that employers provide reasonable accommodation for any disabled employee who is otherwise qualified to perform essential job functions. An employer may not refuse to hire, refuse to promote, discipline, or terminate an employer based on his or her disability. Furthermore, an employer may not retaliate against an employee with an adverse employment action if an employee requests a reasonable accommodation for his or her disability.
Recent ADA Case Filed
Anthony Willoughby had worked for Connecticut Container Corp. since 1978. In 2009, Willoughby was diagnosed with type two diabetes and high blood pressure. He submitted doctor’s notes informing his employer of his diagnosis of diabetes, hyperglycemia, dehydration, and tachycardia and made use of leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to recover from symptoms such as inability to stand, vertigo, vision loss, and excessive sweating.
Shortly after his diagnosis, Willoughby was assigned to work in a more strenuous position with significant heat exposure. He informed his supervisor that the work was “too much for him,” but she only responded that he must “do the work or go home.” Two weeks after his new assignment, Willoughby informed another supervisor that he did not feel well, but received no response. Later that evening, he passed out in a chair due to an episode of dehydration, hypoglycemia, and syncope. His supervisor sent him home for sleeping on the job.
Willoughby sought treatment, went on doctor-recommended leave, and submitted medical forms explaining his complications due to his diabetes and explanation for his loss of consciousness on the job. However, despite his documentation, the supervisor reported his “sleeping” episode to plant managers, who subsequently terminated his employment and canceled his health insurance. Willoughby brought ADA discrimination and retaliation claims against his employer.
Court Rejects Defendant’s Arguments
The defendant argued that Willoughby did not have a disability that qualified under the ADA because his diabetes did not severely restrict a major life activity. The court disagreed, stating the evidence that his disability was more than sufficient and showed that his illness substantially limited his activity. The court also found that Willoughby sufficiently requested accommodation by notifying his employers of his diagnosis and that his particular job assignment was too strenuous. The court also found a possible connection between his termination and request for accommodation and, therefore, refused to dismiss the retaliation claim.
Willoughby’s emotional distress claim was also allowed to proceed as the court found the company’s actions constituted outrageous conduct because supervisors and managers failed to actually investigate whether Willoughby had passed out due to illness or had actually fallen asleep prior to terminating his employment and benefits.
If you have a disability and believe your employer is not complying with the ADA, you should contact an experienced employment attorney at HKM to discuss a possible case.