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On April 5, 2016, NELA was joined by our colleagues from the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, in support of the Plaintiff-Appellant Kristin Punt in Punt v. Kelly Services & GE Solutions Controls.
The district court granted summary judgment against the Plaintiff regarding her failure to accommodate claim, based on an out-of-context interpretation of Cisneros v. Wilson (10th Cir. 2000), regarding whether her request for medical leave as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was “indefinite.” Specifically, the district court erred by: 1) finding that the Plaintiff’s accommodation request amounted to a request for indefinite leave, and was thus unreasonable as a matter of law, because she could not specify how long her impairment would last, and therefore guarantee that she would not need additional future leave; 2) imposing no obligation on the Defendant to engage in the ADA’s interactive process; and 3) focusing on her cancer’s duration rather than on its workplace impact.
Our amicus brief makes three arguments:
1) It describes the extent to which the facts of this case are clearly distinguishable from the peculiar facts of … Read More
On March 9, 2015, NELA joined Disability Rights North Carolina and the National Disability Rights Network to file an amicus brief in support of plaintiff-appellant Whitney Stephenson in the case of Stephenson v. Pfizer, Inc., Case No. 14-2079, pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The issue on appeal is whether the district court erred in interpreting the language of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regarding the nature of the essential functions of the job and the scope of reasonable accommodations as set forth in the statute.
Plaintiff-appellant Whitney Stephenson has worked for Pfizer, Inc. as a pharmaceutical sales representative since 1984. As a pharmaceutical sales representative, Stephenson was required to meet with approximately eight to ten physicians per day to sell them Pfizer products, which meant that she spent up to ninety percent of her time traveling between various physicians’ offices in the Winston-Salem, North Carolina area. In October 2008, Stephenson was diagnosed with a disorder which caused a significant loss of vision in her left eye and the same condition affected her right eye in 2011. By October of that year she was legally blind and unable to drive safely. Stephenson had … Read More
On March 3, 2014, NELA filed an amicus curiae brief in Travers v. Cellco Partnership d/b/a Verizon Wireless in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in support of plaintiff Patricia Travers who was wrongfully terminated in violation of the ADA and in retaliation for taking FMLA leave. The court in the Middle District of Tennessee granted Cellco’s motion for summary judgment on Travers’ disability claim for two reasons. First, it found insufficient evidence that Travers was “regarded as” having a disability because Travers did not show that she was regarded as unable to do her job or as being substantially limited in performing the tasks of her job. Second, the court found insufficient evidence that the alleged misconduct was pretext. The definition of disability under the ADAAA is one of NELA’s current amicus priorities.
Travers had been terminated immediately upon her return to work after taking approved medical leave, allegedly for waiving mail in rebates for customers. Verizon’s FMLA leave is handled by third party administrator, MetLife. In order for an employee to not be penalized for taking medical leave, it must be designated as FMLA after the employee has gone through a cumbersome qualification process. Any … Read More
NELA was joined by The Arc of the Unites States, the National Disability Rights Network, The Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities, and Disability Rights Vermont on an amicus brief in this case to ensure that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit had a full understanding of the ADA Amendments Act’s (ADAAA) changes to the disability analysis and, when applying those changes, of the inherent nature of intellectual disability. Both are issues of first impression for the Second Circuit and both analyses were badly botched by the district court. Author: Brian East… Read More
On July 14, 2013, NELA joined AARP in filing an amicus brief supporting Carl Summers, a contract statistician with Altarum Institute Corp. who sustained serious injury to both legs in 2011 accident, in his appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Mr. Summers was terminated while recuperating from these injuries despite properly requesting an accommodation under the federal disability laws. Amici address several aspects of disability law not analyzed with clarity or precision by the district court, including the significance of enactment of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) as well as the issuance of revised regulations by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regarding the status of non-permanent medical conditions. In particular, the district court failed to properly analyze whether Summers was “substantially limited” in a “major life activity,” and whether Altarum “failed” to “reasonably” accommodate his injuries.
Authors: Daniel B. Kohrman, Brian East… Read More
Heimseshoff v. Hartford Life & Accident Insurance Co. and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (Case No. 12-729) involves the question of when a statute of limitations should accrue under ERISA for judicial review of an adverse disability benefit determination. In this case, the plaintiff brought suit to obtain long-term disability benefits to which she was entitled under the employee benefit plan. The lower courts, however, dismissed her cases time-barred by the three-year statute of limitations period set out in the benefit plan policy. If the Court were to adopt Hartford’s reading, the plan’s statute of limitation for judicial review of such adverse determinations would run before the employee even knew that his or her claim had accrued.
NELA and AARP’s amici brief argues that despite the Court’s decision last term in U.S. Airways v. McCutcheon, 569 U. S. ____ (2013), holding that clear plan terms are enforceable, here an implied term must be read into the long-term disability ERISA plan at issue in order to make the plan term surrounding the limitations period workable. In particular, amici urge the Court to allow for equitable tolling of the contractual limitations period during the time a claimant is unable to bring suit because … Read More