Hartford Sued for Failing to Accommodate, then Firing Underwriter with Multiple Sclerosis

A longtime employee of The Hartford Financial Services Group has sued his former employer for failing to accommodate his disability – multiple sclerosis (MS)- and for firing him for complaining about it.

Adam Havens was hired by Hartford in 2001 and worked as an underwriter, according to the complaint. He consistently received positive performance reviews and was among the top-performing employees within his division.

In 2014 Havens was diagnosed with MS and promptly informed Hartford of his condition, according to the complaint. He claims he struggled to work as much as possible, but missed 35 days of work due to his MS symptoms that year, for which he provided Hartford medical documentation. Hartford approved one of those days of time off as Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave, deducted about 32 days from Havens’ accrued paid time off (PTO) and designated two days as unpaid time off.

In 2015 Havens missed about 72 days of work, including periods of hospitalization, for which he again provided medical documentation, according to the complaint. Hartford approved approximately 21of those days as FMLA leave, deducted six days from Havens’ PTO, and classified the remaining days as unpaid time off, approximately 16 of which were covered by the company’s short-term disability benefits.

When Havens’ MS symptoms worsened in 2016 he needed to take a leave of absence, according to the complaint. He discussed using FMLA leave or short-term disability benefits with Hartford representatives, including his supervisors and human resources personnel. In his complaint he claims he had not exhausted his FMLA leave at that point. By mid-July 2016, when asked when he would return to work, he said he wasn’t sure and that he would need additional medical leave. He did not seek long-term disability benefits because he intended to return to work.

According to the complaint, Hartford then informed him, by letter, that, because he had used all his available leave, he lacked “any source of job protection” to cover his absence and, because he was “absent without job protection,” his “employment with the Hartford is terminated immediately.”

Havens claims Hartford did not engage in any interactive process to provide him with reasonable accommodation, as required by law: “The Hartford failed to provide, or even to consider, granting [Havens’] leave as a reasonable accommodation for his disability. The Hartford also failed to engage in an interactive process to determine the feasibility of providing leave as a reasonable accommodation.” Rather than doing so, it fired him, the complaint states.

The case was brought in the Southern District of New York by David Shanies of New York, New York.

Image source: KOMUnews (Flickr)