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University Did Not Violate ADA By Requiring Fitness Exam

By on June 27, 2013 in ADA with 0 Comments

Dr. Leon Coursey worked as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Education at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.  He began there in 1972.  Students logged complaints about Dr. Corsey in 2004, and several colleagues registered complaints in 2007.

In 2009, 12 students reported that Dr. Coursey exhibited erratic behavior in the classroom.  He yelled at a student, and he complained about students who questioned his grading methods.  He was alleged to have told students that he was the most senior faculty member and “no one could touch him.” Another student said that Dr. Coursey had gone berserk.  Four students made written complaints about him, and one adjunct faculty member reported that Dr. Coursey came up behind her while she was sitting at her computer, put his arms around her and stuck his tongue in her ear.

The University suspended Dr.Coursey on February 3, 2009 and later required him to undergo a fitness-for-duty examination.  Dr.Coursey refused to attend the fitness exam.  Instead, he filed a discrimination complaint with the EEOC on October 29, 2009.

On May 25, 2010, the University President filed charges to have Dr. Coursey terminated for professional misconduct.  On November 4, 2010, the Faculty Grievance Board unanimously voted in favor of termination.  Dr. Coursey contested the termination and appealed to the University President, who upheld the termination. Further appeals were to no avail, leading Dr. Coursey to file suit under the ADA.

First, the Court dealt with the argument by Dr. Coursey that he was “regarded as” having a disability because the University requested that he undergo a fitness examination.  The Court rejected this position:  “[A]n employer’s request for a medical examination, standing alone, is not sufficient to establish that the employer ‘regarded’ the employee as disabled.”  (citations omitted).

In response to the argument that the University unlawfully demanded that Dr. Coursey submit to a fitness for duty examination, the Court said an employer has a right to such an examination if the medical examination is consistent with business necessity.  The Court said, “. . . Dr. Coursey’s abusive and erratic behavior toward students and staff gave (the University) ample reason to seek further information about his ability to continue performing the essential functions of his employment.”  It added that campus safety is a core concern of any university.  Lastly, the Court found that there was no causal link between his October 2009 EEOC complaint and the University’s initiation of proceedings to terminate him in May 2010 since too much time elapsed between these two events.

This case can be found at Coursey v. University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Civil No. CCB-11-1957 (D. Md. April 30, 2013).

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This blog article was researched and written by John H. Geaney, a member of the executive committee and equity partner at the law firm of Capehart Scatchard. The content of the this article is intended to provide general information on the topic presented, and is offered with the understanding that the author is not rendering any legal or professional services or advice. This article is not a substitute for legal advice. Should you require such services, retain competent legal counsel.

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About the Author

About the Author:

John H. Geaney, a shareholder and co-chair of Capehart Scatchard's Workers' Compensation department, began an email newsletter entitled Currents in Workers’ Compensation, ADA and FMLA in 2001 in order to keep clients and readers informed on leading developments in these three areas of law. Since that time he has written over 500 newsletter updates.

Mr. Geaney is the author of Geaney’s New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Manual for Practitioners, Adjusters & Employers. The manual is distributed by the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education (NJICLE). He also authored an ADA and FMLA manual as distributed by NJICLE. If you are interested in purchasing the manual, please contact NJICLE at 732-214-8500 or visit their website at www.njicle.com.

Mr. Geaney represents employers in the defense of workers’ compensation, ADA and FMLA matters. He is a Fellow of the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers of the American Bar Association and is certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a workers’ compensation law attorney. He is one of two firm representatives to the National Workers’ Compensation Defense Network. He has served on the Executive Committee of Capehart Scatchard for over ten (10) years.

A graduate of Holy Cross College summa cum laude, Mr. Geaney obtained his law degree from Boston College Law School. He has been named a “Super Lawyer” by his peers and Law and Politics. He serves as Vice President of the Friends of MEND, the fundraising arm of a local charitable organization devoted to promoting affordable housing.

Capehart Scatchard is a full service law firm with offices in Mt. Laurel and Trenton, New Jersey. The firm represents employers and businesses in a wide variety of areas, including workers’ compensation, civil litigation, labor, environmental, business, estates and governmental affairs.

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