A recent decision by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals supports employers in reducing their litigation exposure when they have properly crafted and enforced safety policies. In Coleman v. Pennsylvania State Police, No. 13-3255, 2014 WL 1064379 (3d Cir. Mar. 20, 2014), the court affirmed a ruling in favor of the Pennsylvania State Police (“PSP”) against disability discrimination and other claims by a probationary State Police Cadet. Prior to completing training, Coleman suffered a traumatic brain injury while off duty. Because he suffered seizures, the last in 2010, Coleman needed to work in a limited duty capacity. Under PSP policy, a Trooper, whether probationary or not, must be seizure free for 5 years in order to work full duty. Although Coleman’s commanding officer believed she could “more than accommodate” him for at least 5 years with limited duty assignments, the PSP recommended termination because Coleman “would not be able to resume full duty until August of 2015 at the earliest, and every subsequent seizure would re-start the five-year clock….”
The district court granted PSP’s motion for summary judgment, finding, among other things, that Coleman could not prove that he was otherwise qualified to perform the essential functions of a full status trooper. On appeal, the Third Circuit affirmed, finding that, since Coleman never completed his required probationary training, he could not prove he was qualified to perform the essential functions of the job at the time of his dismissal. PSP had also shown that “the threat of a seizure is significant enough to constitute a ‘direct threat’ and that the PSP seizure policy is a justified response to that threat,” since its purpose is to protect the officers, their colleagues and the public from a significant risk of substantial harm.
Where safety is essential to their work, employers, including police departments and other public service employers, may implement policies that apply to all employees, whether full status or probationary, to ensure the safety of employees and others impacted. In order to reduce the risk of liability, employers should be sure that any workplace safety policies addressing employees’ health or medical conditions are in writing, distributed or otherwise communicated, and applied even-handedly.
Articles In This Issue: 1. What’s Happening To United States Patents? 2. The Legal And Practical Implications Of Doing Business In China 3. Subguard Insurance – A General Contractor’s Risk Management Option For Defaults By Subcontractors 4. Everything You Wanted To Know About Pennsylvania’s New Right-To-Know Law (But Were To Afraid To Ask) 5. The… Read more »Read More
On Sunday, March 29, 2020, at the Health Care Compliance Association’s 24th Annual Compliance Institute in Nashville, Tennessee, Michael A. Morse will present to attendees “The False Claims Act Update.” During this presentation, attendees will: Understand the fundamentals of liability, damages and procedure under the FCA Review critical recent court interpretations of the Supreme Court’s… Read more »Read More
Pamela Coyle Brecht will be presenting at the Health Care Compliance Association’s 24th Annual Compliance Institute in Nashville, Tennessee on March 30, 2020. The title of Ms. Brecht’s presentation is, “Healthcare Private Equity, Moving Into the Government’s Crosshairs.” Private equity (PE), through mergers and acquisitions, has moved into the healthcare space in a very big… Read more »Read More