seventh Circuit: Injured employee not certified particular person underneath ADA

The 7th Court of Appeals upheld a ruling that a woman fired from her job after suffering a spinal injury was not a qualified person under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In June 2016, Paula McAllister underwent spinal surgery after a car accident in which she sustained severe head and back injuries. Shortly after her injury, McAllister applied for short-term disability benefits and medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.

In the months following her surgery, the attending physicians at McAllister repeatedly concluded that she was not yet able to work as a machine operator at Innovation Ventures LLC. Innovation granted her medical leave and short-term disability benefits during her treatment. However, when it became clear that McAllister was unlikely to be able to return to work until February 2017, Innovation fired McAllister in December 2016.

McAllister then applied for long-term disability and social security benefits, and the Social Security Agency granted her SSDI benefits in February 2018 to claim them retrospectively from the time of her accident.

McAllister eventually sued Innovation, claiming the company had not accepted it under the ADA, and put forward several reasons for discriminatory actions. However, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana granted Innovation’s motion for a summary judgment, ruling that McAllister did not qualify under the ADA for failing to meet the claim.

The 7th Circuit Court confirmed Thursday in Paula McAllister v Innovation Ventures, LLC, 20-1779 that McAllister had failed to compose a real factual issue to survive the summary judgment that it “did the essentials” of theirs The machine operator profession could also be fulfilled in August and September 2016 with accommodation.

“Given that McAllister is unable to perform the essential functions required of an operator, he is not a qualified person under the ADA,” wrote Senior Judge Joel Flaum for the 7th Circuit Panel.

The panel also found that McAllister’s post-hoc claims that she could have done light work or a desk job during this time were “hollow” and concluded that she had not created a real argument over the physical fact that she could do another job, with or without accommodation. When she found that the opposite was the case, she found that she could not work in any role in innovation.

Therefore, the panel concluded that the district court did not make any mistakes in issuing a summary judgment.

Accordingly, the district court rightly found that a request for additional vacation was not ‘appropriate’ and so McAllister did not find a real problem that she was a qualified person under the ADA. After deciding that McAllister does not qualify as a disabled person under the ADA, we decline to advance to the county court conclusions on just decoupling, ”concluded Flaum.

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