Silvina Barboza served as editor of Latinos Unidos, a Spanish language newspaper owned by Greater Media Newspapers (GMN) in Freehold. Early in 2005, Barboza was diagnosed with obesity and scheduled for gastric bypass surgery in December. Barboza told her supervisor she planned to use vacation time for the surgery and recovery.
In July 2005, when learned of her plans, GMN terminated her. Shortly after, Barboza received notice from Aetna, which still insured her, that GMN had changed its health care coverage and that gastric bypass surgery was no longer covered.
Barboza sued for violations of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) as well as retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and loss of consortium.
U.S. District Judge Mary Cooper rejected the latter two claims, finding that NJLAD does not support a loss of consortium claim, and GMN’s conduct was not severe enough to sustain a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress.
On the discrimination and retaliation claims, GMN contended that Barboza never notified the company that she was disabled, and never requested an accommodation. Cooper noted: “While there are no ‘magic words’ that an employee must use when requesting an accommodation, the employee must clearly communicate that assistance is needed for the disability.”
Cooper noted that obesity is a recognized disability under NJLAD, and Barboza did request the opportunity to use her vacation time to seek surgical treatment. Barboza will have a chance to make her case in court.
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