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Snoozing worker wins reversal on ADA claim against employer

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An Indiana company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when it fired an employee for falling asleep on the job after it learned the worker had a medical condition covered by the federal protection.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, in part, the summary judgment on the ADA claim in favor of the company, C&M Fine Pack  Inc., by the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Indiana, Fort Wayne Division.

In Kimberly Spurling v. C&M Fine Pack, Inc., 13-1708, the 7th Circuit found, despite the company’s claim to the contrary, C&M fired Spurling after it had been notified that she had a medical disability that was interfering with her ability to do her work.   

Following several warnings and suspensions for sleeping at work, Spurling was given a final warning/suspension on April 15, 2010. Six days later, she gave the company the paperwork her physician had just filled out, indicating she had a disability covered under the ADA and that more medical testing was needed.

On April 28, C&M fired Spurling. About a month later she received a definitive diagnosis for narcolepsy that, in her case, was manageable with medication.

The District Court ruled that C&M terminated Spurling on April 15, before it knew of her disability.

The 7th Circuit reversed because, although C&M traded emails about firing Spurling on April 15, the company did not clearly communicate its intentions to her and it did not inform her of the decision to terminate prior to April 28.

Moreover, C&M received the doctor’s note on April 21 but did not talk to Spurling to find out whether a reasonable accommodation could be made for her disability. C&M did not contact her doctor to determine the severity of Spurling’s claim or how to adapt her work to her condition.
 

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