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A leave request will not be unreasonable on its face so long as it 1) is for a limited, finite period of time; 2) consists of accrued paid leave or unpaid leave; and 3) is shown to be likely to achieve a level of success that will enable the individual to perform the essential functions of the job in question. Also, to prevail on a claim for failure to accommodate, a plaintiff need not show that the employer relied on the record itself or acted with a discriminatory motive. The denial of a reasonable accommodation alone is discrimination.
In this hotly contested employment discrimination case, plaintiff Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit against defendant Manufacturers and Traders Trust Company d/b/a M&T Bank to obtain appropriate relief for Candace McCollin, a former employee of M&T. Plaintiff claimed that defendant violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112(a) and (b), by failing to provide reasonable accommodations to the employee and by terminating her employment because of her disability, cervical insufficiency. In particular, plaintiff contended that, after the employee received clearance from her doctor to return to work following the birth of her baby, defendant failed to reassign her to a vacant position for which she was qualified and then terminated her. Plaintiff asserted two ADA claims against defendant 1) failure to accommodate; and 2) wrongful discharge. Plaintiff sought for the back pay with prejudgment interest for the employee, as well as front pay, reinstatement, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and injunctive relief. At the conclusion of extensive discovery, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, which have been fully briefed. Defendant has also moved to strike two of plaintiff’s exhibits.
Should the plaintiff’s motion as to unlawful discharge and failure to accommodate claim be granted?
The court denied the plaintiff’s motion as to the unlawful discharge claim and granted the motion for failure to accommodate claim. The defendant’s cross-motion was granted as to its unlawful discharge claim and denied the failure to accommodate claim. In this ADA action, the employee's request for leave was reasonable because the employee requested leave for a finite period and it was undisputed that leave was likely to enable the employee to perform the essential functions of the job in question upon her return. The court also held that plaintiff had given no basis to doubt the veracity of the defendant’s explanations or to infer that discrimination was the real reason for the employee's termination because even if the employee's experience inched her over the line from unqualified to minimally qualified, this minor discrepancy did not allow a reasonable trier of fact to conclude that the defendant’s explanation was unworthy of credence.