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Court Denies Appeal, Fitness Firing OK

A former Lincoln (Neb.) emergency dispatcher’s appeal of her termination has been denied by a federal appeals court, which ruled that the city did not violate provisions of federal law intended to protect those with disabilities or the need to take family medical leave. Instead, the court ruling said the city based its decision on the dispatcher’s ability to perform specific and required job functions. Charlene Wisbey was a 28-veteran of the agency when she exhausted her accumulated sick leave in early 2007. She then applied for leave under the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) based on anxiety and depression. She obtained a doctor’s certification saying she could perform her job functions, but would have to take intermittent leave over the next six months “or longer.” The city questioned her ability to perform the job, ordered a fitness-for-duty exam, and then concluded she was unfit for duty. She was fired in April 2007 based on the city doctor’s opinion. A federal District Court ruled for the city, and in Wisbey’s appeal of that decision, the federal Court of Appeals agreed that the city neither discriminated against her under the federal Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), nor fired her for taking FMLA leave. Download (pdf) the court’s documents here (Wisbey’s plea, the earlier District Court summary judgement for the city, and the recent Appeals Court ruling).

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