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DURANT v. CHEMICAL/CHASE BANK/MANHATTAN

January 28, 2000

CAROL DURRANT, PLAINTIFF,
V.
CHEMICAL/CHASE BANK/MANHATTAN BANK, N.A., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kaplan, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

The complaint in this action alleges that defendant violated the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA")*fn1 when it terminated plaintiff's employment on January 29, 1993, allegedly by reason of her disability. Defendant The Chase Manhattan Bank, sued herein as Chemical/Chase Bank/Manhattan Bank, N.A. ("Chase"), moves for summary judgment dismissing the complaint.

Facts

Plaintiff sustained an injury to her left leg in an automobile accident on February 7, 1992. As the injury prevented her from doing her job, she stopped working and received short-term disability benefits from Chase for a period of 26 weeks following the accident. She thereupon applied for long-term disability benefits from the bank and from Social Security. She received Social Security benefits but, after receiving long-term disability from Chase for one month, the bank's doctor determined that she was able to work and those benefits terminated. Despite the view of Chase's doctor, however, plaintiff never returned to work.

In December 1992, plaintiff was hospitalized for depression and remained in in-patient psychiatric care through March 1993. Thereafter, she first was in an acute out-patient program and then in a long-term program for treatment of her depression through 1995. It is undisputed that plaintiff has been unable to work from the date of her accident in 1992 to the present.

On January 21, 1993, Chase wrote to plaintiff at the hospital in which she then was a psychiatric in-patient. The letter stated:

"Our records indicate you have been absent from the Bank since February 7, 1992, which is over six months. There is no information concerning a return to work in the near future and you are not covered by Long Term Disability Insurance."
"If you are planning to return to work, please contact your Human Resources Representative . . .
"If we do not hear from you by January 29, 1993, your employment will be terminated as of that day."

Upon receipt of the letter, plaintiff's social worker telephoned the bank and informed it that plaintiff still was hospitalized and incapable of returning to work. On January 29, 1993, the bank terminated plaintiff's employment.

Discussion

Chase seeks summary judgment dismissing the complaint on the grounds that plaintiff has failed to establish that she had a disability within the meaning of the ADA and, in any case, that she could not perform the essential functions of her job, with or without reasonable accommodation. In any case, it argues that plaintiff never requested a reasonable accommodation. Plaintiff acknowledges that she was unable to perform her job at any relevant time, but argues that the bank was obliged to accommodate her by extending her leave rather than terminating her. Moreover, she contends that the bank's action in terminating her aggravated her depression and prevented her from returning to work.

Disability

Broadly stated, the ADA, to the extent relevant here, prohibits discrimination "against a qualified individual with a disability because of the disability . . . in regard to . . . discharge of employees. . . ."*fn2 "`[Q]ualified individual with a disability' means an individual with a disability who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the employment position that such individual holds. . . ."*fn3 "Disability" means (a) "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of ...


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