Attorneys Donald Peterson and Sean McGivern won a jury verdict on March 2 before Federal Judge Thomas J. Marten. Their client, David, suffers from a heart condition that requires a pacemaker. In 2013 David developed an infection in his heart from a surgery to replace the battery in the pacemaker. David needed several months to recover.
David’s employer, Postal Presort, Inc., approved 12 weeks of Family Medical Leave, which was set to expire on April 17, 2013. Five weeks before this expiration date, David informed PPI that his doctor would not be able to see him again until 6 days after the expiration date, but that his doctor anticipated a full release back to work at that time.
The morning of David’s doctor’s appointment, PPI informed David that he no longer had a job but was free to reapply. David then saw the doctor, got his full medical release, and went to PPI to turn in his uniform and provide the medical release.
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to qualified individuals with a disability, unless doing so would be an “undue hardship” on the employer. Allowing an employee leave to recover from a disabling illness is one reasonable accommodation an employer may be required to provide, depending on the circumstances. Our position was that PPI had a duty to provide David 6 more days of leave as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.
A month before David’s anticipated return, PPI lost two major accounts. At trial, PPI argued it did not return David to his job because it had no position available for him and it would have been an “undue hardship” to keep the position available.
At trial, Peterson and McGivern challenged this defense by pointing to PPI’s own internal documents. PPI had no documentation of any layoff in 2013. Further, PPI’s internal emails showed that it terminated David for failing to return by the original return date, even though it knew he was scheduled to see his doctor within just a few days, calling it a “no-call, no show”.
The jury returned a verdict, providing David nearly a full year of lost wages. Judgment was entered March 2, 2018. The ADA also allows the court to award David attorney’s fees on top of his back wages, so that request is in the works.
It took nearly 5 years to get this case to the jury. This is about twice as long as is typical. In this case, the trial court had granted a motion for summary judgment, finding that David had no evidence to rebut the undue hardship evidence. We appealed that decision to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, in Denver, obtaining a reversal and earning the opportunity to present the case to the jury. That appeal process added about 1 ½ years to the process.
GH is happy for our client, David. Most of our clients are like David – individuals taking on a large business or insurance company. We are proud to stand up for the legal rights of individuals who have been wronged.