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Fully recovered employee isn’t disabled

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

An employee who has fully recovered from a medical crisis isn’t likely to qualify as disabled under the ADA. Therefore, she would not be entitled to further accommodations.

In addition, as this case shows, a few negative comments about her prior condition would not be considered to create a hostile environment.

Recent case: Jean, a registered nurse for Novo Nordisk, had a heart attack that required a quadruple bypass. She asked for and was granted FMLA leave for surgery and recovery.

When her doctor asked for an additional two weeks off, Novo Nordisk approved that, too. After a gradual increase in her hours over several weeks, the doctor said he expected Cunningham to return to full-time work “with total resumption of her usual responsibilities.”

Jean did return and for a short time spent some of her workdays working from home. She then got excellent reviews and increases. However, she eventually sued over perceived disability harassment after she overheard a supervisor commenting that perhaps she had given herself a heart attack to get extra time off work. She also claimed that when she asked for time off to see her doctor, her requests were met with what she perceived as disdain.

The employer argued that she couldn’t sue for disability discrimination because she wasn’t disabled under the ADA.

The court agreed.  She was fully recovered enough to work full time at her job, could care for herself and wasn’t limited in any significant way. Nor had her employer treated her as if she were disabled given that she received good reviews and raises. A comment here or there isn’t enough for a hostile work environment claim either. (Cunningham v. Novo Nordisk, No. 14-2640, 3rd Cir., 2015)

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