- An IT professional for Johnson & Johnson has alleged that the company fired him when he returned from medical leave based on his disability and age (Pultorak v. Johnson & Johnson Services, Inc. and Johnson & Johnson, No. 3:21-cv-01947 (D.N.J., Feb. 5, 2021)).
- The plaintiff said he was let go about four weeks after he after he returned from leave for throat and lung cancer and lumbar spinal fusion therapy. According to his complaint, his job was given to a younger, less qualified individual without a disability. He applied for several positions with the company for which he was qualified but he was not hired, he alleged.
- The complaint alleged violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and New Jersey law. Johnson & Johnson did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
The ADA and ADEA protect qualified individuals from workplace discrimination. The former requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations that allow employees with disabilities to perform the essential functions of their jobs. Employees must be able to carry out the essential functions of their jobs, either with or without a reasonable accommodation, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Essential functions are the basic job duties that an employee must be able to perform, EEOC says, and can vary depending on the job.
However, there are exceptions. For example, if an individual with a disability cannot comply with a requirement that employees wear safety gear, the employee may not be qualified for the ADA's protections, according to the EEOC.
Management-side attorneys also say employers should exercise caution when taking an adverse employment action against a worker who is exercising a job-protected right such as taking leave. If such an action must occur during a worker's leave or shortly after, for example, it's important the employer has documentation to support the adverse employment action; after all, timing alone can establish a prima facie case of retaliation.