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Rehab facility worker’s disability bias charge reinstated


A federal appeals court Monday overturned a lower court and reinstated a disability discrimination charge filed on behalf of a rehabilitation facility’s former laundry worker who suffered from an anxiety disorder.

Carma Kean, who has documented history of an anxiety disorder, had worked as a laundry assistant at West Meade Place LLP for six months when an ongoing situation with her co-workers triggered flareups of her disorder, according to Monday’s ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of appeals in Cincinnati in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. West Meade Place, LLP.

As a result, Ms. Kean asked for her employer for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.  A supporting certificate from her doctor said her prognosis indicated she would miss work because of her condition for one to three days per month, three to four times a year, the ruling said.

West Meade’s nursing director informed Ms. Kean she did not qualify for FMLA leave based on the length of her employment and that in any case, leave would be unpaid. 

Ms. Kean, who was unable to go without pay, asked to return to work immediately, but the nursing director would not let her come back without a note from her doctor stating she was medically fit to return. Ms. Kean was terminated two days later and a note in her file said it was because of her inability to perform her work duties.

The EEOC filed suit on Ms. Kean’s behalf, alleging West Meade had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when it terminated her. The U.S. District Court in Nashville granted summary judgment in the center’s favor, concluding no reasonable jury could find Ms. Kean had met any of the statutory definitions of disability under the ADA.

The ruling was overturned by a unanimous three-judge appeals court panel.

The “key question in this case” is whether the nursing director regarded Ms. Kean as having an impairment, the ruling said. “There are several pieces of evidence,” that indicate this was the case, including the director’s awareness that Ms. Kean had an anxiety condition, the ruling said.

“Construing the evidence in the light most favorable to Kean, as we must at this time, the record indicates that (the director) was not only aware that Kean had an impairment that intermittently affected her ability to perform her job, but also that it was related to stress,” the ruling said.

The next question, the ruling said, is whether Ms. Kean was terminated because of her perceived impairment. “West Meade asks us to rely” on the nursing director’s testimony that Ms. Kean had falsified a medical document, but there is no corroborating evidence of this, the ruling said.

“Because there are genuine disputes regarding material facts in the record before us, and because the district court failed to view the evidence in a light most favorable to Kean, we conclude that the award of summary judgment to West Meade was inappropriate,” the ruling said, in overturning the lower court’s judgment and remanding the case for further proceeding.

The EEOC had no comment and West Meade’s attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.





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