MBJ Client Victory: First Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment on Disability Discrimination Claim

MB&J earned a significant legal victory in a decision issued by the First Circuit Court of Appeals on May 10, 2012, in the case of Pamela Jones v. Walgreen Co., et. al., No. 11-1917.  In this case, the First Circuit panel (which included Associate Justice David H. Souter (Ret.), sitting by designation) affirmed the District Court’s grant of summary judgment for defendants on all counts.  The plaintiff, a former long-term Walgreens store manager who was terminated after her medical restrictions became more severe and permanent, had brought claims of disability discrimination, failure to accommodate and retaliation.

The Court’s decision included a number of significant holdings which clarified the law in the First Circuit and provided very helpful precedent for employers defending claims of disability discrimination and retaliation.  These included the following:

  • A finding that certain job duties were essential functions even though the job description at issue was outdated, did not reference the duties in question, and did not accurately capture the true nature of the position (in this case, involving significant manual labor);
  • A finding that an employer does not have to engage in the interactive process if doing so would be futile, i.e., where the employee’s doctor’s note sets forth restrictions that make it evident that the employee cannot perform her job; and
  • A finding that even though a manager (in this case, a Walgreens store manager) can and should delegate most tasks to subordinates, wholesale delegation is not a reasonable accommodation as a matter of law.

Gregory A. Manousos and Robert P. Morris represented the defendants.