Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. may have discriminated against an in-house attorney who had portions of both legs amputated after developing vascular disease, a federal judge ruled.
A jury must decide whether the insurer fired Kevin Greenwood on the basis of his disability, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois said June 3. Nationwide pointed to Greenwood’s documented performance problems, but there’s evidence a non-disabled attorney with similar performance deficiencies wasn’t discharged, the court said.
There’s also evidence the other attorney was given more than a year to do better while Greenwood only got a few months before and a few weeks after receiving accommodations for his condition to improve his performance, Judge Jorge L. Alonso said. A jury might also reject Greenwood’s performance difficulties as a legitimate reason to fire him given that Nationwide began documenting his shortcomings before providing him with an accommodation it knew he needed, Alonso said.
Greenwood testified that a reason he was behind in one of Nationwide’s performance criteria was because it took him longer to get to and from court following his leg amputations, the court said.
But Nationwide is entitled to summary judgment on Greenwood’s failure-to-accommodate claim, the court said. He requested three accommodations and the company granted two of his requests. That was reasonable under the circumstances, the court said.
Allowing Greenwood to work out of a Nationwide office closer to his home and to occasionally telecommute gave him more time to complete his work and to rest when his condition left him fatigued, Alonso said. He failed to show that additionally providing him with one week to catch up on his work would have been an effective accommodation, the judge said.
“It was a temporary band aid for a permanent problem,” the court said.
To the extent Greenwood was arguing that he should have been given help typing, he never requested that accommodation and didn’t show how it was related to his leg amputations, the court said. If he was suggesting the insurer should have excused him from appearing in court, that was an essential function of his job, it said.
A job function sometimes must be performed in a specific work environment, Alonso said.
Greenwood abandoned his claim that he was fired in retaliation for requesting reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the court said.
The Law Offices of Ruth I. Major P.C. represents Greenwood. Littler Mendelson P.C. represents Nationwide.
The case is Greenwood v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., 2019 BL 203025, N.D. Ill., No. 17-cv-3745, 6/3/19.
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