Labor & Employment Law Daily Worker with anxiety, ADHD sues K&L Gates for disability bias, retaliation after work-from-home accommodation sought
Thursday, January 30, 2020

Worker with anxiety, ADHD sues K&L Gates for disability bias, retaliation after work-from-home accommodation sought

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

After requesting to work from home, the marketing database specialist purportedly had his overtime curtailed, was given a negative performance review, was made to write daily performance reports, and then fired for “falsifying” information in one.

A former client relationship management database specialist has filed a lawsuit against K&L Gates LLP alleging that the Pennsylvania law firm violated the ADA and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act when it refused to accommodate his Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and instead discriminated and retaliated against him because of his disability and requests for reasonable accommodations.

Initial accommodation request. In November 2018, the employee told his manager that his disability was aggravated because of the noise in the office work environment, and that he was having trouble concentrating and was being distracted, according to the complaint. He asked for a laptop and permission to work from home—a short walk away—from time to time. The option was purportedly a viable one given the nature of his work.

His healthcare provider filled out a form indicating that the employee ‘”is easily distracted by his environment and has difficulty concentrating/completing tasks on a timely basis as a result’ and recommended that he be permitted to ‘work from home environment alone’ and to ‘limit stimuli in his environment that will distract him,’” the complaint alleges. Purportedly, HR thought the accommodation might be possible, but his manager rejected it.

No more OT. Just days after he had disclosed his disability, the employee’s manager allegedly sent him an email limiting him to less than 40 hours per week and requiring him to get prior approval for any overtime. Purportedly, the employee regularly worked 43 hours or more each week and had not been previously required to get permission to do so; nor were similarly situated workers.

Negative performance review. A couple days later, the employee’s manager gave him a “needs improvement” performance review, the first negative review of his tenure, according to the complaint.

Second accommodation request. In December 2018, when the employee asked to work from home on a part-time basis, his manager allegedly denied the request because she was concerned that other employees would want to work from home if she granted his request. The complaint states that other similarly situated employees without disabilities were allowed work from home.

In January 2019, the law firm gave the employee noise-cancelling earphones, which helped, but did not eliminate all of the noise and other distractions in the environment, the complaint alleges.

Daily reporting imposed. That same month, at a performance review discussion, his manager purportedly expressed concerns about the employee’s work and productivity, and directed him to write daily reports of everything he did each day and to give the reports to her daily. “This was an onerous request, because in any given day, the plaintiff was required to and did perform dozens of work activities; creating a daily report was burdensome and time consuming,” the complaint states. Allegedly, HR did not think this was necessary, but his manager insisted.

The daily work goals were very difficult, if not impossible, for the employee to meet, according to the complaint. “The plaintiff was under constant pressure to get more work done during the day, especially since she would not permit him to work the overtime hours necessary to get everything done,” the employee alleges. Between November 2018 and March, the employee purportedly worked about 64 hours “off the clock” trying to keep up with his work demands.

Employment terminated. Nonetheless, on March 4, 2019, the employee’s employment was terminated for “falsifying” information in one of the daily work reports that he had submitted, i.e., he had overstated the number tasks he had completed on a particular day, the complaint states.

The two-count complaint raises claims of disability discrimination and retaliation under the ADA and the PHRA. The employee is seeking back pay, front pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and attorney’s fees and costs.

The lawsuit, Krastman v. K&L Gates LLP, was filed in the Western District of Pennsylvania; the case is No. 2:20-cv-00124-MJH.

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