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Termination for Being Sick?

There are multiple federal and state laws in place to protect employees and even applicants for employment from discrimination. Among them are the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments (ADAA) (prohibiting discrimination against persons with disabilities); the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (prohibiting discrimination against a person due to his/her/their race, color, religious affiliation, etc.); and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) (providing support for those workers specifically dealing with the ramifications of COVID). We are all well aware of the COVID global pandemic which has been raging on for close to two years at this point impacting over 8.2 million people and killing over 1.8 million worldwide.

So, should a person’s employment be terminated simply because he/she/they test positive for COVID19 and he/she/they ask for leave time to deal with the illness? That is exactly what happened to the plaintiff in the case of Matias v. Terrapin House, Inc. brought in federal court in Pennsylvania. While her former employer alleges that it terminated her employment because she was “not a good fit”, the plaintiff alleges her employment was terminated due to her positive test result for COVID. In her complaint, the plaintiff is alleging violations of the ADAA, the PHRA, and of the FFCRA. In response to that complaint her former employer filed a motion to dismiss, effectively bringing before the court the question of whether or not having COVID is a disability within the protections of the ADAA.

In its opinion denying the motion to dismiss, the court found that the plaintiff could be considered to be regarded as having a disability and thus stating a claim under the ADAA. The plaintiff is thus free to continue with her lawsuit against her former employer. We are operating in unique times. If you or someone you know is experiencing workplace harassment or termination of their employment due to ramifications of the coronavirus, or if you are struggling with how to implement safe and legal workplace conditions of employment during the pandemic, contact the attorneys at Leonard Sciolla. We can help you develop legally related strategies designed to keep everyone working in a safe, healthy environment.

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