Monday, July 18, 2011

ADA case from FMLA claim related to long standing depression

Another ADA case with implications for Pittsburgh workers is Weisman v. Buckingham Township. On Feb. 28, 2003, plaintiff Max Weisman was terminated from his position as township manager of Buckingham Township in Bucks County. Weisman had suffered from depression since his teenage years and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, panic disorder and major depression in 1997. He started his position as township manager in 2000.

Weisman alleged as of the beginning of December 2002, no employee or supervisor at the township was aware of his disability.

On Dec. 2, 2002, Weisman left work around lunchtime because of symptoms related to his illness. After seeing his doctor on Dec. 4, Weisman began intensive treatment in a partial hospitalization program two days later. He claimed that he did not initially inform the township of the true nature of his illness because, at the time, he was embarrassed and ashamed of his mental illness. He said he informed Dana Cozza, the human resources director, that he was suffering from pneumonia.

According to Weisman, on Dec. 12, he received a letter from Raymond Stepnoski, chairman of the township supervisors, indicating that he was being placed on leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and notifying him that he was being considered as a "key employee," and that he might not be permitted to work following his FMLA leave.

Weisman alleged that on Dec. 20, he received his pay stub and was paid for all accrued sick, personal and vacation time. He was not advanced two weeks of sick leave as had been provided to employees in the past as a matter of course.

Weisman claimed that on Dec. 22, he spoke with Cozza and inquired about the failure of the township to advance him two weeks sick leave. According to Weisman, Cozza informed him that although she had done the necessary paperwork, Stepnoski told her not to advance Weisman the sick leave.

Weisman alleged that on Dec. 30, he disclosed his mental illness to Cozza through a letter accompanying his completed medical forms. Weisman claimed that he asked that this information be kept confidential under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as there was no reason why the supervisors or any other township employee needed to know the nature of his illness. Informing the township in this letter that he was disabled, Weisman claimed he requested to be paid according to the disability provisions in his employment contract. He alleged that in response, the township did not offer to engage in an interactive process or pay any disability benefits.

On Jan. 13, 2003, Weisman received a letter from Stepnoski indicating that the supervisors had been made aware of Weisman's specific disability.

Weisman sued the township, along with Stepnoski and supervisors Henry Rowan and Janet French, for violating several federal laws, including the FMLA and ADA. The plaintiff's counsel argued that when Weisman became incapacitated in December 2002, the township had no policy or ordinance to implement the FMLA and no policy or ordinance requiring a FMLA leave to run concurrently with paid leaves.

The Feb. 28, 2003, letter terminating Weisman's employment was an adverse employment action in retaliation for Weisman's exercise of his rights under the ADA, asserted counsel. Counsel maintained that the defendants failed to engage in the interactive process in an attempt to accommodate Weisman's disability and return him to employment with the township. Additionally, the defendants failed to pay Weisman in accordance with his employment contract regarding short-term disability and with its policy of compensating employees 60 percent of their salary during FMLA leave.

The defendants denied the allegations. Defense contended that the township followed protocol when it terminated Weisman's employment.  Plaintiff sought an unspecified amount for past and future emotional distress.

The parties settled for $400,000 prior to trial. Share this post :
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