Pro-Labor Employee Discriminated Based on Disability

Hector Luis Roman-Oliveras had a pre-existing medical condition (Schizophrenia) during his two decades of employment with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA).  During that tenure, his work performance was exemplary.  However, Mr. Roman-Oliveras became the target of retaliatory activity from a supervisor at PREPA in 2005 for his union activities; the following year he was removed from his position for no apparent reason and was subsequently forced to undergo multiple medical examinations.  Mr. Roman-Oliveras was not allowed to return to his job despite a recommendation from his doctor (psychiatrist) and, in 2007, was placed on unpaid medical leave.  Mr. Roman-Oliveras filed a complaint alleging violations of several statutes, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

As the opinion in Hector Luis Roman-Oliveras, et al, v. Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), James Velez, Julio Renta, et al., No. 09-1503, states, the ADA’s Title I requires three elements be satisfied: 1) the Complainant “was disabled within the meaning of the Act; 2) he could perform the essential functions of the job, with or without reasonable accommodation; and 3) the employer took adverse action against him, in whole or in part, because of his disability.”  Although dismissed by a lower court, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the First Circuit found that the plaintiff was disabled within the ADA’s provisions, he could perform the essential functions of his job, and his employer (PREPA) took adverse action against him when they removed him from his job, despite the affirmation from his psychiatrist.  The full opinion can be found by clicking here: Roman-Oliveras v PREPA, et al.

WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOU:  Employers should check with counsel when making an employment-related decision regarding employees involved in union activities and/or those in a protected class.  The causal link here is the retaliatory conduct and an effort to discard the employee in a medical-related release.  Employees who feel they have been targeted for any reason should document those activities.  Contact Muller Law or another employment lawyer to see how this case could apply to your situation.