Pennsauken, NJ (Law Firm Newswire) November 22, 2016 – The Appellate Division decided to reverse a trial court’s dismissal of a disability discrimination case in which the plaintiff was an employee who received a diagnosis of Lyme disease.
Matthew Cook was employed as a printing machine operator at Gregory Press since 2002. In 2011, he consulted a neurologist who believed he might have a demyelinating disease – a condition resulting in damage to the myelin sheath surrounding nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord.
Cook took one day off from work, in 2011, to have an MRI, which revealed myelitis. His physician recommended that he have a spinal tap to discover whether he might have multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease or a virus. While his boss gave him time off to have the spinal tap, he said it was possible that Cook had nothing wrong with him.
Prominent South Jersey workers’ compensation attorneys Petrillo & Goldberg, said, “In many cases, such as the one presented here, employers often act hastily in terminating an employee when it becomes apparent that the employee may have a disability.” “Wrongfully terminated employees are advised to seek counsel from a workers’ compensation attorney to recover damages and hold the employer accountable,” the attorneys add.
The spinal tap caused complications such as dizziness and headaches. Cook’s physician prescribed medication to combat the symptoms and the side effects, as the plaintiff was unable to work. The physician faxed a note to Cook’s boss, stating that Cook had to be off from work until his release later that week. When Cook telephoned his boss to request more time off, his boss said that he had to return to work by September 21, 2011.
Cook did not feel sufficiently well to return to work by September 21, but he did. Cook made a production error, which caused a printing job to be delayed, after which his boss yelled at him for making the error. Cook told his boss to stop yelling at him. A short time later, Cook was terminated from his employment.
Subsequently, Cook was diagnosed with Lyme disease. His physician observed that the Lyme disease, in conjunction with the reaction to the spinal tap, had an adverse effect on Cook’s ability to manage stress.
Under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), Cook filed a lawsuit alleging wrongful termination and failure to make reasonable accommodations. The trial judge dismissed Cook’s case after determining that Cook was fired because of his bad attitude, and not due to his disability.
Under the NJLAD, disability is defined much more broadly than under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According to the NJLAD, the plaintiff only has to prove a physical or psychological condition which restricts the use of a bodily or mental function. The plaintiff is not required to show a substantial limitation of a significant life activity, as is the case under the ADA.
The Appellate Division concluded that Lyme disease is a serious condition that is considered a disability under the NJLAD. It found that Cook’s physician determined that his patient, while working for Gregory Press, fell ill with Lyme disease which had a negative impact on Cook’s capacity to work.
Furthermore, the court decided that a jury could make the inference that the employer knew of the disability and, when Cook he requested time off from work, it was possible to reasonably accommodate him.
Learn more at http://www.petrilloandgoldberg.com/
Petrillo & Goldberg Law
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Pennsauken, NJ 08109
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Philadelphia, PA 19103
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Woodbury, NJ 08096
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