Originally published in the Utah Employment Law Letter - October 2012.
As children, many of us grew up listening to Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins as he bounced around the rooftops of London with “a broom for the shaft and a brush for the flue.” According to his character, Bert, you “never need a reason, never need a rhyme” to “kick your knees up” and “step in time.” While that may be wonderful advice if you ever find yourself on the rooftops of London, it’s not great counsel for someone considering legal action. As the following case shows, even the government — with its cadre of attorneys — can sometimes get caught flat-footed. Read on to see how the government stumbled and what employers can do to “step in time.”
Getting off on the wrong foot -
Tricore Reference Laboratories hired Rhonda Wagoner-Alison as a clinical lab assistant II (CLA II). Among other things, as a CLA II, she worked as a phlebotomist and registered patients. She admitted that walking and standing for up to two-thirds of each day were essential functions of her job.
In February 2006, Wagoner-Alison had surgery on her left foot. After using her allotted leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), she returned to work and by June was working full-time performing all her duties as a CLA II.
Wagoner-Alison had surgery on her right foot on May 18, 2007. She again took FMLA leave. But by the time that leave ran out, her doctor informed Tricore that she could not return to work until August 20 and then only to a light-duty job that would not require her to stand or walk. Tricore granted her leave through August 20.
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