Plaintiff pursued a charge with the EEOC and also pursued and was granted Social Security disability benefits. In his lawsuit, plaintiff alleged, among other things, that his employer had terminated him because of his disability and failed to provide a reasonable accommodation.
So, in which case do you think the employer’s motion to dismiss was granted? If you guessed the first case, Casteel, you are wrong. There, the employer argued, among other things, that the plaintiff was seeking an indefinite leave of absence which is, as a matter of law, unreasonable. The court disagreed. While recognizing that the plaintiff had missed two return-to-work dates, at the time of termination, her doctor had indicated that she could return to work on February 4, 2010. Therefore it was not a request for “indefinite” leave.
The court also explained that, while the plaintiff remains disabled to date, the analysis does not focus on her current medical status, but whether the plaintiff was a qualified individual at the time of termination. “If at the time of termination there are plausible reasons to believe that the disability can be accommodated by a leave of absence, the employer is responsible for its failure to offer such a leave.” At the time of termination, the employer knew that the physician had estimated that the probable duration of the condition was six months and there was a return to work date of February 4. And, perhaps more troubling to the court was that there was no evidence that the employer had even analyzed whether extending the leave of absence further would have caused it an undue hardship. This misstep was fatal to the employer’s motion to dismiss.
In the second case, the court dismissed the ADA claims. The court emphasized that allowing the plaintiff to stay on a leave of absence without pay through January 2, 2011 would have accomplished nothing because, as it turns out, plaintiff was not able to perform the job by then. And, during his deposition, plaintiff’s doctor testified that he would have been unable to meet the other physical demands of the job.
The court also noted that, while plaintiff had requested reinstatement by letter dated December 3, 2010, he had also stated that he had the heart surgery and was not yet cleared to return to work and that there may be additional restrictions. The court stated ‘“[r]easonable accommodation does not require the employer to wait indefinitely’ for an employee’s medical condition to improve” and granted dismissal.