Employees ask for and take medical leave for all sorts of reasons. That doesn’t mean their employers know when an employee is disabled. But that doesn’t stop some employees from trying to use their leave as evidence in a discrimination lawsuit.
Recent case: Andres Fernandez worked as a truck driver and took a short disability leave. When he returned, he got a medical clearance allowing him to work without restrictions.
Fernandez then ran into problems. He was insubordinate, had an accident and received customer complaints. Finally, the company fired him. He sued, alleging he was disabled and had been fired because of his disability.
The court dismissed the case, reasoning there was no evidence the employer knew about any possible disability just because Fernandez had taken medical leave. If the employer didn’t know, it couldn’t have discriminated. (Fernandez v. Black Millwork, No. 06-3659, DC NJ, 2008)