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Conn. federal court says that jury could reasonably find that hospital violated disabled employee’s rights by failing remove her from hostile environment

Earlier this month, a federal court in Connecticut held that a jury could reasonably find that Lawrence & Memorial Hospital violated the rights of a lab tech when it failed to provide reasonable accommodations for her disability in retaliation for her filing a complaint of sexual harassment. The facts of this case, unfortunately, will sound familiar to many workers who have been similarly traumatic events.

The lab tech plaintiff who filed the lawsuit against Lawrence & Memorial Hospital, worked in a lab with a man who, she says, subjected her to some pretty significant harassment. The male co-worker allegedly acted in an abusive manner to many people in the lab. In one incident, he shoved a co-worker into the plaintiff. In another incident, he put his hand up to her face as though he was going to slap her. And in another incident, he elbowed her. Some of the harassment was also sexual, such as “blonde” jokes and nicknaming the plaintiff “bimbo.”

The plaintiff had hypertension which her doctors say was worsened because of the hostile environment she experienced at work. Her doctors believed it would be dangerous for plaintiff to continue to work in this hostile environment because her hypertension was so bad. The plaintiff complained about the harassment she experienced and also asked for changes to her working conditions to accommodate her hypertension.

Lawrence & Memorial Hospital refused to accommodate the plaintiff. One accommodation she requested was a change in schedule and the court ruled that a jury could find that this was a reasonable request and, by denying it, that the hospital violated the plaintiff’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, the plaintiff also alleged that the hospital denied her request for a scheduling change because she made a sexual harassment complaint. The court ruled that a jury also could reasonably find that the hospital denied her scheduling request in retaliation for her sexual harassment complaint. The court based its ruling, in part, on one of the reasons that the hospital’s managers stated for refusing to change her schedule. They said that if they changed her schedule, it would lend credence to her sexual harassment complaint and they did not believe her sexual harassment complaint had merit. Thus, there was an apparent connection between the denial of her requested schedule change and her sexual harassment complaint, and that is unlawful retaliation.

The facts of this case are eerily familiar to the situations many workers who contact the Maine Employee Rights Group experience. Workplace harassment is a huge problem and it often leads to adverse health effects for victims. When those adverse health effects become severe, they can result in disabilities that need to be accommodated under the ADA. If you are a Mainer that has experienced a situation similar to the plaintiff in this case, you should contact the Maine Employee Rights Group to learn more about your rights.

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