Denial Of Access To Donated Sick Leave Program Is Not A Failure To Accommodate, New Jersey Appellate Division Holds

In Queen v. City of Bridgeton, the Appellate Division held that an employer with no legal duty to provide paid leave does not violate the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) for denying an employee’s request for the same. 2012 WL 5356495 (N.J. App. Div., October 29, 2012). The plaintiff suffered from cardiac issues requiring her to take protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. After exhausting all of her paid leave, the plaintiff applied for the city’s donated leave program, which the city and its union developed for employees “suffering from a catastrophic health condition or injury” who had exhausted their paid leave. Her application was rejected by the City (for failure to provide required medical records), and she filed the instant suit alleging a failure to accommodate her disability under the NJLAD. 

The Appellate Division affirmed dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims, noting that “[u]nlike the typical claim, wherein an employee seeks an accommodation that would facilitate her return to work, maintain her employment, or remedy her condition, plaintiff here demands just the opposite, namely a monetary benefit that would permit her continued absence from work, and which defendants have no recognized legal duty to provide. Indeed, plaintiff never established that she was able to work with or without any accommodation. Accordingly, the summary judgment proofs simply do not support a valid disability discrimination claim based on reasonable accommodation.” The court further noted that any contractual claim to the donated leave failed because the plaintiff neglected to provide the requested medical information despite repeated requests for the same, and that the City was reasonable in denying her application for the leave.

Note: This article was published in the December 2012 issue of the New Jersey eAuthority.