John Kelleher v. Fred A. Cook, Inc.
Case No. 18-2385, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 1800
Westlaw All Citations: 939 F.3d 465,
2019 A.D. Cases 357, 842, 60 NDLR P 21
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit,
September 24, 2019
Keywords: Associational Discrimination, Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), termination of employment, Rett Syndrome, Motion to Dismiss
John Kelleher brought a claim for associational discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) in federal district court. His claim was dismissed. Mr. Kelleher appealed, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the lower court decision.
John Kelleher was employed by Fred A. Cook, Inc., and had a child born with Rett Syndrome, a genetic neurologic disability. Mr. Kelleher’s child exhibited multiple symptoms of Rett Syndrome, including those similar to epilepsy.
Mr. Kelleher told the company he would have to leave immediately after his shift to care for his child. Mr. Kelleher also requested to work eight hour shifts and to take an emergency day off after his child was hospitalized. Mr. Kelleher was told by his supervisors that “his problems at home were not the company’s problems.”
Mr. Kelleher’s relationship with the company became difficult. The company changed his job responsibilities and demoted him. Weeks later, when he was late to work, he was fired.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit determined that, if the facts stated in Mr. Kelleher’s complaint were true, this would be enough to state a claim for associational discrimination under the ADA.
To state a claim for associational discrimination under the ADA, a plaintiff must allege:
The law discourages dismissal of employment discrimination claims without an employer approving a legitimate (alternate) reason for the adverse action. There is a temporary presumption of discriminatory motive if a plaintiff can show:
The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit applied the correct standard to the facts. The Court determined one missed day of work, one 15-minute late arrival, and a tendency to leave immediately after shifts did not make Mr. Kelleher unqualified to perform his job. The Court also found the company’s reaction to his requests (i.e., “his problems at home were not the company’s problems.”) was enough evidence to show that a claim for associational discrimination was possible.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the decision of the federal district court was in error and the case was sent back to the lower court to decide the case again based on the guidance of the Court of Appeals.
Employees may be able to temporarily prevent their employers from firing them under the ADA if they show they can perform essential jobs duties with a reasonable accommodation.