Sunday, November 20, 2005

employment - disability discrimination - ADA, PHRA, FMLA, IIED

Kaniuka v. Good Shepherd Home -- ED Pa - November 3, 2005

Plaintiff was terminated from her job when she accidentally mixed up her medications, resulting in her being hospitalized and missing work. The employer said she was fired for a) sleeping at work, b) intentionally taking meds not prescribed to her; c) "mental health reasons", and d) "being out on leave."

Plaintiff sued her employer under the ADA, PHRA, FMLA and state common law. The employer moved to dismiss several claims. The court said that a plaintiff need not plead every material fact to survive motion to dismiss, only facts that, in addition to inferences drawn from them, provide a basis for recovery. Claims should not be dismissed unless there it is beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts that would entitled her to relief.

retaliation claims under ADA, 29 USC 12201 et seq., and PHRA, 43 P.S. 951 et seq.
A prima face retaliation claim requires a plaintiff to show a) she engaged in a protected activity, b) the ER took adverse action at the time of or after such activity, and c) there is a causal connection between the two. "Protected activity" includes asking for working conditions that accommodate a disability, or filing a claim for disability discrimination. Taken as a whole, P's complaint here alleges sufficient facts to show that the ER took adverse action against her after she made an accommodation request.

PHRA "aiding and abetting" claim against supervisors
The PHRA generally does not apply against individuals, only employers. However, sec. 955(e) prohibits any person from aid or abetting unlawful discriminatory acts under the PHRA. The allegations and inferences of the complaint sufficiently allege potential supervisor liability to withstand summary judgment.

Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 USC 2610 et seq.
Complaint properly alleged the plaintiff was "employee" and defendant an "employer" under the FMLA

intentional infliction of emotional distress under Pa. common law
Tort claims against employers generally are barred by the Worker's Compensation Law, unless they involve intentionally tortious conduct. However, the plaintiff in such a case must show that the alleged action was taken for purely personal reasons, unrelated to the employment relationship. She did not do so in this case, so that claim was dismissed.

Donald Marritz
MidPenn Legal Services