A federal appeals court has overturned a lower court ruling and reinstated a disability discrimination suit filed by a former nursing home licensed practical nurse, who said her employer pressured her to work more than a 12-hour day despite her medical professionals’ recommendation she not do so.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati said it was overturning the lower court ruling in the case, Rita Morrissey v. Laurel Health Care Co. et. al., because there were “numerous material factual issues in dispute” in the case.
Ms. Morrissey informed her employer, Coldwater, Michigan-based The Laurels of Coldwater, in February 2012 that because of physically disabling issues with her back, she could not work more than 12 hours per shift, and provided notes from two medical professionals supporting her request.
In a February 2012 meeting, however, Coldwater management informed staff it would not provide accommodations for any medical condition unless it stemmed from a work-related injury, according to the ruling.
The situation between Ms. Morrissey and Coldwater subsequently deteriorated to the point she was informed on Feb. 4, 2016, that she was mandated to work 16 hours because a replacement nurse had called off from work, even though it was another nurse’s turn to work the shift, according to the ruling. Ms. Morrissey left before her shift ended, and never returned to Coldwater, said the ruling.
She then filed suit in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids, Michigan, charging the nursing home with discrimination, failure to accommodate and retaliation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The District Court ruled in Coldwater’s favor and dismissed the case, concluding Ms. Morrissey had not established she was disabled, had not suffered an adverse employment action, that Coldwater had not failed to accommodate her, and that Coldwater did not retaliate against her.
“We disagree on each point,” said the ruling by a unanimous three-judge appeals court panel. The record “supports a finding that Morrissey was constructively discharged,” it said.
“As for the remaining elements, Morrisey requested, repeatedly, that Coldwater accommodate her twelve-hour work restriction, which assuming that the restriction was still in effect, constituted protected activity,” it said.
“Next, considering that Morrissey asked management and administration at Coldwater to be accommodated, Coldwater was aware of the activity.
“Finally, viewing the record in Morrissey’s favor, it could be interpreted to show that, because of her alleged work restriction, Coldwater targeted Morrissey to be mandated to work more than twelve hours on Feb. 4, 2016, leading to the constructive discharge,” the ruling said, in reversing the lower court ruling and remanding the case for further proceedings.
Ms. Morrisey’s attorney, Sarah S. Prescott, founding partner of Salvatore, Prescott & Porter PLLC in Detroit, said in a statement, “The case was wrongly decided below, there was no question. Coldwater had a flat-out policy against accommodating people, and that is wrong and we know a jury will agree, so we look forward to trial. “
The nursing home’s attorney could not be reached.
In November, a company that provides workers to dispense free food samples to shoppers, which allegedly did not let its employees sit for more than 10 minutes every two hours, agreed to pay $2.65 million to settle a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission disability lawsuit, the agency said.
A federal appeals court has reinstated a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by a fired nurse who said she was terminated because she was perceived to be disabled when in fact she was not.