Court Moves Forward Claims by Former Employee with Narcolepsy

October 22, 2009 ( - The U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon has denied an employer's motion for summary judgment on a former employee's claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA).

Jackson Lewis reports that the court found Rachel Waters, who suffers from narcolepsy, had raised sufficient issues of fact for trial regarding, among other things, whether she was substantially limited in the major life activity of sleeping and whether the reason for her discharge – excessive absences – was pretextual. In addition, the court ruled Waters could proceed on her failure-to-accommodate claim and her FMLA and OFLA claims.

The court concluded that an issue of fact existed regarding whether Fred Meyer Stores could have reasonably accommodated Waters’ condition by waiving the points she accrued for three absences during the time she and the employer were waiting for a corrected medical certification. While the court found that Waters’ initial medical certification for leave failed to comply with the laws, that the employer correctly requested additional information from Waters’ physician, and that the employer could delay Waters’ leave until it received the corrected certification, it denied summary judgment based on Waters’ phone calls regarding her absences. 

According to Jackson Lewis, on each occasion, Waters telephoned the employer, saying her absence was due to narcolepsy and she needed to take medical leave; however, because it had not received the corrected medical certification, the employer noted the absences as unexcused and charged Waters, under the attendance policy, with 20 points per absence, for a total of 60 points.

The court decided Fred Meyer Stores “had some obligation to treat the telephone calls in May as requests for discrete instances of FMLA or OFLA leave, since leave under the April 24, 2006 application was not yet approved.”

The case isWaters v. Fred Meyer Stores Inc.