A class action lawsuit has been filed against Whole Foods Market Group Inc., alleging that the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to provide accommodations to an employee after she underwent surgery and requested to return to work.
The plaintiff, a Whole Foods employee, had spinal fusion surgery in June 2011. Her doctor cleared her to work in August 2011 with a restriction on not lifting more than 10 pounds. Although the plaintiff stated she could do her job with this restriction, Whole Foods informed her that she couldn’t return until she received full clearance from her doctor with no restrictions. She was cleared in December 2011 and returned to work.
In May 2012, the plaintiff underwent another surgery and was given six weeks of unpaid leave by Whole Foods to recover. After the six weeks had lapsed, Whole Foods informed the plaintiff that she was required to apply for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) since her doctor had not released her to work.
The plaintiff submitted an application for FMLA leave to Whole Foods, which denied the application on the grounds the plaintiff had now worked the requisite 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months, making her ineligible. Two days after denying the FMLA application, Whole Foods terminated the plaintiff’s employment.
The plaintiff filed a class action suit seeking to represent a class of Whole Foods employees who required and requested a reasonable workplace accommodation, but were denied because of the company’s policy requiring employees to be cleared to work with no restrictions, even if employees were capable of performing their duties without a release.
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