Termination for Employee Absenteeism

The Sixth Circuit has refused to hold an employer liable under the Americans With Disabilities Act or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act for terminating an employee who failed to return to work after a one year absence which was necessitated as a result of a work-related injury that required surgery. Holding that the employer's policy, which mandated termination after a one year absence regardless of the reason, was non-discriminatory and uniform in its application, the court dismissed the employee's suit for damages under both federal statutes. The court held that the policy did not distinguish between disabled and non-disabled employees. It further held that since the employee did not request an accommodation, the employer was not required to speculate as to the extent of the employee's disability or the need for accommodation.

The court further held that since the employee had not been released by her physician at the time she was discharged, she was not able to perform the essential functions of her job, which is a requirement for liability under the ADA. As no evidence was presented to show that plaintiff's group was more likely to be impacted in a disparate manner by the policy, or that a discriminator motive existed, the dismissal under the ADEA was also upheld. Gantt v. Wilson Sporting Goods Co., 23 TAM 27-45 (5/12/98).