Court denies motion for summary judgment on alleged ADA violations involving employee's breast cancer

By Gabriel Neves | Nov 12, 2018

EAST ST. LOUIS - U.S. District Judge David Herndon denied summary judgment to Gateway Regional Medical Center in an Oct. 30 ruling involving a suit brought by a former employee. 

The lawsuit, filed by Carol Howard against the hospital and supervisor Mandi Handfelder, alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and intentional emotional distress, claiming that the hospital refused to accommodate Howard's disability - breast cancer.

The defendants had argued in the motion that "this case involves nothing more that plaintiff’s hypersensitive reactions to objectively innocuous conduct, her unfounded assumptions regarding others’ actions and motivations, and her blatant disregard of the undisputed facts.”

Howard was an employee at Gateway's Veeder Clinic between 2014 and 2015. She was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer on Aug. 11, 2014. 

As stated in the ruling, "that same day, Howard informed Handfelder of her breast cancer diagnosis," for which "Handfelder began harassing Howard as soon as she told Hanfelder about the cancer treatments."

After arriving 15 minutes late for work on Aug. 19, 2014, after an MRI scan, Howard was reprimanded by Handfelder, and broke into tears, fearing she would lose her job, the ruling states.

It goes on to state that right after starting chemotherapy, Howard told Handfelder she was protected by the ADA, for which Handfelder said she didn't know what it was. On Nov. 12, 2014, Howard requested 21 days of medical leave, which was approved. Another leave was requested on Jan. 28, 2015, being approved once again.

Almost a month later, Howard underwent a mastectomy and a breast reconstructive surgery. After the surgery, Howard told Handfelder that "that she would not return to work until Feb. 25, 2015." In light of that, Howard was advised to call hospital's human resources to apply for leave under Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

The department did not answer the call. Nevertheless, Howard later found out she was not eligible, the ruling states.

Howard resigned on March 9, 2015, after having a request for accommodations ignored by her bosses, the ruling states.

Herndon dismissed the hospital's arguments for summary judgment, stating that "Howard has presented sufficient factual questions upon which a jury should be permitted to consider her claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress."

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois Case number 3:16-cv-01250-DRH-DGW

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