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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Federal Reserve Did Not Violate ADA with Firing

RICHMOND, Va. (CN) - A former employee of the Federal Reserve Bank in Richmond can't sue the bank for disability discrimination because he was terminated for insubordination and misconduct, not because he was an alcohol, a federal judge ruled.

John Vannoy, a former building manager for the Federal Reserve sued the bank in December 2013, claiming it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by not accommodating his depression and alcoholism.

In his complaint, Vannoy says he struggled with depression during his entire 16 tenure with the Federal Reserve, and that in September 2010, he was diagnosed with major depression.

"During this time his alcohol consumption also increased markedly. At times one or more of Vannoy's major life activities were significantly limited by Depression and/or Alcohol Dependency. For instance, in the fall of 2010, Vannoy's ability to eat, sleep, communicate and/or think was at times substantially limited. Because of one of both of his disabilities, Vannoy sometimes needed some time off work," the complaint says.

Vannoy admitted to missing several days of work during the autumn of 2010, but said at no time did his supervisors complaint about his absences. Still, Vannoy said he feared he might lose his job, so he requested a meeting with his managers, where he told them of his problems and his efforts to deal with them.

Vannoy said a month later, in December 2010, after another rash of absences, he was disciplined for "not coming to work" for several days. He was also placed on a performance improvement plan, which Vannoy said made him feel as if he were being singled out and subjected to strict new procedures.

Then, on December 20, 2010, he said he had a "severe anxiety and depressive episode" triggered by a family crisis. Two days later, he said, he received a letter from the bank at home, telling him he'd been fired.

But U.S. District Judge John Gibney Jr. said there was ample evidence the bank did try to accommodate Vannoy, including advising him to go into rehab, approving his request for short-term disability request, and granting him FMLA leave.

In addition, Gibney said, the evaluation that led to Vannoy's being subjected to the performance improvement plan noted his attendance programs, his failure to notify the bank of his absences, and the lack of leadership he showed on bank projects -- including, at one point, disappearing for three days while working on one.

The next day, Vannoy was told to complete the employee portion of the PIP paperwork before he went home, but the building manager refused.

"Vannoy said he wanted to leave, because he had 'no business being here,'" Gibney wrote in his opinion.

Vannoy was again told to complete the form.

"Later that day, Vannoy left without completing his portion of the PIP form. The Bank then fired him," Gibney wrote.

The judge said, "Disabled or not, Vannoy must comply with the Bank's policies and directives ... Vannoy's chronic absenteeism and inability to complete the essential duties of his job may well have stemmed from his underlying depression and substance abuse. But the law does not require an employer to ignore an employee's misconduct or blatant disregard for the employer's rules and policies."

"Vannoy disregarded instructions from his supervisors on numerous occasions, leading to his lawful termination. He was not the victim of discrimination," Gibney wrote.

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