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Maine U.S. District Court permits disability discrimination case against Pine State Trading to go forward

On July 10, 2012, the U.S. District Court of Maine denied Pine State Trading’s motion to dismiss a disability discrimination lawsuit against it. A former Pine State Trading truck driver, David Gilks, filed the lawsuit against Pine State Trading because it decided to fire him rather than accommodate his disabilities. Mr. Gilks, represented by the Maine Employee Rights Group, alleges that Pine State Trading violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Maine Human Rights Act (MHRA).

Mr. Gilks has a variety of medical conditions including psoriatic arthritis and Wegener’s granulomatosis, which cause recurring skin ulcerations on his legs and impair his mobility. Mr. Gilks also suffers from diabetes, anxiety, and depression. In March, 2010, he needed medical leave as an accommodation for his disabilities. After the conclusion of a 12-week period of medical leave, in June 2010, Mr. Gilks requested an additional 4-8 weeks of medical leave as a reasonable accommodation for his disabilities. Instead of providing him with this reasonable accommodation, Pine State Trading fired him. Pine State Trading caused Mr. Gilks to suffer from a lot of stress when it fired him and that stress exacerbated his disabilities. Because of this exacerbation of his disabilities, Mr. Gilks has been unable to work since Pine State Trading fired him.

Pine State Trading argued to the Court that it did not violate the law because it does not have to provide disabled employees with indefinite medical leave and Mr. Gilks admits that he has been unable to work since it fired him. The Court rejected this argument because, according to Mr. Gilks, if Pine State Trading hadn’t fired him, he would’ve been able to return to work after 4-8 weeks of medical leave. Thus, he did not request indefinite medical leave.

As mentioned above, Mr. Gilks filed his claims against Pine State Trading under the ADA and MHRA arguing that Pine State Trading violated those laws when it failed to provide him with the reasonable accommodation of medical leave. The ADA and MHRA are not the only laws which require employers to provide employees with medical leave in some circumstances. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Maine’s Family Medical Leave Requirements (go to sub-chapter 6-A) also require employers to provide medical leave to eligible employees. Moreover, if you suffer a work-related injury, Maine’s workers compensation laws require employers to provide you with medical leave if you need it.

If your employer has refused to provide you with medical leave or has retaliated against you because you needed medical leave, you should contact an experienced employment lawyer to learn more about your rights.