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ADA Issue (Tennessee)

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Junior Member
My wife has several disabling conditions, mainly heart- & lung-related congenital defects, and associated conditions; these are all verifiable and well-documented -- at the age of 24, she's had 4 open-heart surgeries.

Last year she was employed at a child-care center. The center has about 13-15 employees locally but is owned & operated by a large national corporation. There are about 8 different classes of kids divided by age. She told the manager about her physical condition upfront when she was interviewed for the job, specifically that she had somewhat limited stamina in terms of picking up weight & so on. It did not pose much of a problem early in her employment, as she was working part-time & mostly exclusively with a group of infants small enough for her to lift & care for without excessive physical exertion; her only other responsibility was supervising some other classes during naptimes, etc., to give the teachers of those classes their lunch breaks. This is the job for which she was initially hired.

As time went on, her work hours increased until she was working essentially full 40-hour weeks. She was very fatigued because of this, often 'crashing' into bed as soon as she got home in the evenings. Her job performance was good, though, and aside from a one-week bout of pneumonia, she called in sick only one day in ~7 months of employment. Eventually, due to the frequent & lengthy absence of another employee, my wife was put in a different class of older children that required much more physical exertion. My wife asked to be put in any other class, because she could not cope with the physical demands of this one. The manager said that she'd only do that if my wife could provide medical documentation that she was incapable of the work. My wife spent a day going about 340 miles round trip to her cardiologist, and obtained a letter from him briefly describing her condition and asking for her to be excused from duties requiring heavy lifting of children, etc. Her manager dismissed this letter (because it did not specify a particular child weight limit) and insisted that she do the assigned job or find other employment. My wife, unable to do this work, interpreted this as an ultimatum & quit the job.

As an aside, the manager had early on prohibited my wife from using handicapped parking spaces (she has the appropriate permit, obviously), saying "that's for customers" even though a single common parking lot was used by both customers and staff. On another occasion, my wife asked to move a chair into her classroom -- they were provided in other classrooms, and there were some not in use at the time -- but the manager refused and told her to "sit on the floor" if she was tired. These were not particularly burdensome decisions in practical terms, but I think they are indicative of the manager's underlying attitude toward my wife & her disabilities. I tend to suspect that the problem was not rooted in the company's policies as a whole, but with this one particular manager.

We filed a complaint with the EEOC for failure to provide reasonable accommodation, and it appears to be going to mediation. Any advice on what we should do or expect? As far as a monetary settlement, I'd like to see at least back pay from termination up until the time when she found another permanent job (around $7,000 or so). Any comments on what is fair & reasonable to ask for? What about non-monetary remedies (e.g., disciplinary measures for the manager)? Also, If a monetary settlement is provided, will that count as wage income for purposes of Social Security, etc.?

Thanks for any feedback.


Senior Member
I don't see how anyone here can possibly guess what the EEOC will decide and if, in the end, your wife prevails on her ADA complaint, what remedy she can expect. That's something she will need to discuss with an attorney, whether now or at the time the EEOC issues a right to sue letter.

My wife spent a day going about 340 miles round trip to her cardiologist, and obtained a letter from him briefly describing her condition and asking for her to be excused from duties requiring heavy lifting of children, etc This is a rhetorical question but why wouldn't your wife just have phoned her cardiologist to obtain the necessary letter???

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