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Court reinstates part-time worker’s disability bias case

Court reinstates part-time worker’s disability bias case

In a strongly worded ruling, a federal appeals court has overturned a lower court ruling and reinstated disability discrimination charges filed by a college worker terminated because her post-pregnancy disability required her to work only part time.

Heidi Hostetler, who was hired as a human resources specialist by The College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio, in 2013, began maternity leave at the beginning of February 2014, according to Tuesday’s ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati in Heidi Hostetler v. The College of Wooster.

Ms. Hostetler experienced severe postpartum depression and separation anxiety following her baby’s birth, and at her doctor’s request it was arranged she return to work part time, according to the ruling.

Ms. Hostetler was terminated in July 2014 after her doctor asked that she continue to work part time. Her supervisor said in a letter it was because she was unable to work full time.

Ms. Hostetler filed suit against Wooster in U.S. District Court in Akron,  Ohio, charging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and corresponding state laws.

The district court granted the college summary judgment on the basis that full-time work was an essential function of Ms. Hostetler’s position.

A unanimous three-judge panel reversed that ruling. “The crux of this case is whether Hostetler was otherwise qualified for her position,” said the ruling. “The district court concluded that as a matter of law she was not. But both parties have presented sufficient evidence to raise genuine disputes of material fact that preclude summary judgment.”

“Hostetler presented evidence that she satisfied all the core tasks of her position. She testified that she completed all other work on time, including training, employee relations, and recruiting…What is more, statements by Wooster’s representative (and the person who fired Hostetler)” support Ms. Hostetler’s conclusion, said the ruling.

“Given the competing evidence, summary judgment was improper. The district court, however, ignores some of the disputes in the record, and resolved others in Wooster’s favor,” the ruling said.

“Wooster may have preferred that Hostetler be in the office 40 hours a week. And it may have been more efficient and easier on the department if she were. But those are not the concerns of the ADA,” said the ruling, in reinstating Ms. Hostetler’s charges and remanding the case for further proceedings.

Earlier this month, a federal appeals court overturned a lower court and reinstated an ADA lawsuit filed by a dialysis technical specialist, stating there is dispute over his former employer’s assertion that lifting 75 to 100 pounds is an essential job function.





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