United Healthcare Sued for Failing to Accommodate Anxiety Sufferer

An employee of United Healthcare Services, Inc. is suing the the healthcare giant for its failure to accommodate her disability – anxiety – and not allowing her to use Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave to treat it.

Sanye Cowan was hired by United Healthcare in in May 2015 as a practice performance specialist. She claims that she received “above average” performance reviews throughout her employment.

Cowan gave birth to a daughter in July 2016, and, according to the complaint, her supervisor at that time, Nancy Sweeney, forced her to return to work before taking all of her maternity leave.

Beginning in May 2017, Cowan claims that another supervisor began badgering her and was very demanding. On July 1, 2017, Cowan felt heavy chest pains, began crying and felt emotionally overwhelmed, according to the complaint. She was given an EKG and ex-rays and was told she was suffering an anxiety attack. When she informed another supervisor, Linda Ray, that she had been hospitalized for anxiety, she claims Ray mocked her. When Cowan began to cry Ray ended the conversation.

On November 10, 2017, while working directly for Ray, Cowan suffered another anxiety attack, according to the complaint. She was informed by her primary care physician that she should not go to work because her supervisors were triggering her anxiety attacks. She then informed United Healthcare of her intention to take medical leave. She decided, however, to attend a meeting with Sweeney and Ray a few days later to discuss what projects she was working on prior to taking leave.

At that meeting, Cowan was informed that should could no longer telecommute, would have to work in a New York City office, and was placed on a correction action plan. She claims she became physically ill at that point and asked to take FMLA leave for the rest of the day and that Sweeney responded, “Why should I reward you?” Cowan was later told by Sweeney to “leave her anxiety at home,” according to the complaint.

Cowan claims additional attempts to use FMLA leave were also thwarted by United Healthcare, causing her to suffer additional anxiety attacks. She has been on medical leave since November 13, 2017 due to her anxiety, which she claims was caused by the company’s “discriminatory conduct and hostile work environment, due to her disability (anxiety) and request to use FMLA leave,” the complaint states.

Cowan is represented by Phillips & Associates of New York, New York who filed the case in the Southern District of New York.