Today a jury in Portland’s federal court returned a verdict against Rumford Hospital and in favor of the Maine Employee Rights Group’s client Catherine Prescott. Attorneys Peter Thompson and Chad Hansen represented Ms. Prescott at trial.
We previously reported on this case when the court denied Rumford Hospital’s motion for summary judgment. Ms. Prescott, formerly Ms. LaFlamme, worked as a nurse at Rumford Hospital. The case centered around Ms. Prescott’s need for medical leave as a reasonable accommodation for her disability, a herniated disc in her back that required surgery.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Maine Human Rights Act (MHRA) require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. One type of reasonable accommodation is medical leave. In this case, Rumford Hospital let Ms. Prescott take an extended medical leave of over a year due to her herniated disc and related surgery but it fired her before she was able to return to work. When she was able to return to work, Rumford Hospital also refused to rehire her. The jury determined that Rumford Hospital failed to reasonably accommodate Ms. Prescott’s disability, discriminated against her because of her disability, and unlawfully retaliated against her. The jury awarded Ms. Prescott $35,685 for back pay and compensatory damages.
If an employer provides some medical leave to an employee with a disability but not enough leave to permit her to return to work, that medical leave may not have been enough to satisfy the employer’s obligation to provide reasonable accommodations. If the employee needs more medical leave and providing that additional leave is not an undue hardship the employer needs to provide it, regardless of whether it has already provided a significant amount of leave. Rumford Hospital is not the first and will not be the last employer to violate the law in this manner. If your employer has denied you a medical leave or fired you for taking medical leave, contact the Maine Employee Rights Group to learn more about your rights.