Supreme Court At-a-Glance Contributor Katherine E. Hedges, An associate at Hage Hodes in Manchester practicing civil litigation and corporate law.

No. 2021-0129

Dec. 23, 2021

Affirmed.

 

  • Whether the plaintiff was a “qualified individual” under the ADA or RSA 354-A.

 

The plaintiff brought claims against Appalachian Stitching Company, LLC (“Appalachian”) for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and RSA 354-A. The plaintiff had been employed by Appalachian as an assembler, and she was terminated after she was out of work due to a back injury.

The plaintiff had been excused from work for several weeks due to a non-work-related back injury, and she had provided doctor’s notes during that time. Then, a doctor provided Appalachian a letter stating the plaintiff still could not return to work but believed she would be eligible for benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Appalachian responded that the company was not covered by FMLA, and the plaintiff did not meet the length of work requirements. There was no further communication from the doctor, and, after eight days, Appalachian determined that the plaintiff had voluntarily quit pursuant to its employment policies. The plaintiff did allege she tried to call once during that period. The plaintiff challenged the termination of employment as violating the ADA and RSA 354-A. The trial court entered summary judgment in the defendant’s favor.

The trial court found, and the parties did not challenge, that there were no differences between the ADA and RSA 354-A for the purposes of this case. The ADA only protects “qualified individuals,” which are individuals that “can perform the essential functions” of a job “with or without reasonable accommodations.” 42 U.S.C. § 12111(8); 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(m) (2020). On appeal, the Court agreed that it was undisputed that there were essential job functions that the plaintiff could not perform due to her injury, even with accommodation. Further, the Court found it was proper for the trial court to find that the plaintiff was not a qualified individual because she was not able to return to work, and attendance was an essential function. Finally, the Court found that, as a matter of law, inquiry into eligibility for leave under FMLA did not qualify as a request for reasonable accommodation under the ADA. The trial court’s entry of summary judgment in the defendant’s favor was affirmed.

 

Timothy Brock (on the brief and orally) and Benjamin Wyatt and Trevor Brice (on the brief), Law Offices of Wyatt & Associates, Keene, for the plaintiff. Gary M. Burt (on the brief and orally) and Brendan D. O’Brien (on the brief), Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer, Manchester, for the defendant.