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Time-Off Request Too Vague for ADA Claim

June 29, 2007
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Related Topics: Medical Benefits Law, Employee Leave, Featured Article, Benefits
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Michelle Freadman, an insurance company manager, was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and took medical leave from her job with Metropolitan Property & Casualty Insurance Co. in Rhode Island. Freadman returned to work and was permitted to work part time. In 2000 she was assigned to a high-profile project and, although she was not asked to do so, began working long hours, including nights and weekends.

    One week before a major presentation, Freadman told her supervisor that she was working too hard and "needed to take some time off because [she was] starting not to feel well" and "some of [her] symptoms may be returning." The supervisor asked her to take time off after the presentation. After Freadman failed to follow instructions, the project was assigned to another lower-level manager and she began working at home, at first on an authorized and then an unauthorized basis.

    Freadman sued the company under the Americans With Disabilities Act and the equivalent state law on the grounds that the company had excluded her from the client presentation. A district court granted summary judgment against the employee on all claims. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit in Boston affirmed the trial court’s decision.

    While the appeals court agreed that a request for time off or to work at home may constitute a requested accommodation, Freadman failed to show that she put the company "on notice of a sufficiently direct and specific" request for her desired accommodation. The court explained that Freadman had failed to clarify that she needed time off immediately. Freadman v. Metropolitan Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 1st Cir., No. 06-1486 (4/18/07)

    Impact: To avoid disputes about the nature of requested accommodations, it is suggested that, when requests for time off or job reassignments are made, employers require employees to specify, in writing, the nature of the request.

Workforce Management, June 25, 2007, p. 18 --Subscribe Now!

 

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