September 6, 2002
Disability Compliance Bulletin
A federal District Judge in Pennsylvania denied a defense motion for summary judgment last month, preserving a worker's claim that her employer failed to accommodate her multiple sclerosis and terminated her based on disability. Following the denial of the motion, the parties agreed to proceed to a non-binding mediation proceeding.
Susan T. DeFine Armento began working for May Department Stores, which does business as Lord & Taylor, in 1992 as a loss prevention officer. In May 1996, after she had been promoted to a supervisory position, Armento began to experience temporary blindness in her left eye, and she was later diagnosed as having multiple sclerosis. In 1997, Armento's position was eliminated based on budget concerns, and she accepted a position as an invoice processing supervisor. But she had difficulty working on a computer and sought other work.
Eventually, Armento learned about a vacancy for a part-time position known as "send check clerical," which included duties such as data entry, filing and answering customer inquiries. Armento provided a copy of the job description for the position to her physician, who informed the employer of his belief that Armento could do the job.
The employer believed otherwise, said Jamie C. Ray of Philadelphia's Center for Disability Law & Policy, which is representing Armento. Lord & Taylor's position, said Ray, was that there was more to the send check clerical job than the job description indicated and that Armento could not perform it. In February 1998, Lord & Taylor terminated Armento's employment.
U.S. District Judge Thomas I. Vanaskie denied the employer's motion for summary judgment last month. There is evidence to support the finding that Armento has a disability under the ADA, the court said.
The court also preserved the accommodation claim. The employer did not engage in meaningful discussions with the worker or her doctor regarding computer-related limitations, the court said, and this was evidence of a failure to engage in the required interactive process.
The parties will now proceed to non-binding arbitration before a mediator
of the court's choosing, Ray said. If mediation fails, the matter will
be set for trial in 2003.
© Copyright 2002 LRP Publications