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Paul Cronan

Essay by   •  March 23, 2011  •  Case Study  •  3,183 Words (13 Pages)  •  1,670 Views

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Legal Case Model

Relevant Facts:

Paul Cronan started working for the New England Telephone Company (NET) in June 1973 as a file clerk. In 1983, he was promoted to service technician at the Needham, Massachusetts office. After 18 months, he was transferred to South Boston where he was working at the time this case began. During the first six months of 1985, Paul Cronan was absent from work on and off because of the symptoms of AIDS-related complex (ARC). In June, Paul was denied time off to go to a doctor's appointment by his supervisor, Charles O'Brian, who had granted him permission on two other occasions that spring, unless Cronan told him about the nature of the ailment. Cronan feared losing his job and made O'Brian promise the conversation would not go any further before he informed him about AIDS. O'Brian assured him that his medical condition was private and nobody else's business.

O'Brian permitted Cronan to leave early and then told his immediate supervisor, Paul Cloran, who immediately told his supervisor. O'Brian acknowledged in court papers that he told three other supervisors as well as his successor, Richard Griffin. Cronan saw the company doctor, as requested. Two days later, on Sunday, a friendly co-worker informed Cronan that she had heard he had AIDS. Word of his illness had spread among his co-workers and threats were made to lynch him if he returned. Fearing bodily harm and health-threatening stress, Cronan called on Monday and requested to be put on medical leave. His illness benefits were in place until they ran out on June 10, 1986.

In December, 1985, Cronan filed a $1.45 million civil lawsuit in state court against NET. The legal action charged that the company had violated state privacy law by disclosing Cronan's illness and had illegally discriminated against him. On October 16, 1986, a settlement was reached. Cronan would start back the following week at the Needham facility, and NET would educate Cronan's new co-workers about AIDS. The company admitted no wrong-doing and denied all allegations. On Wednesday, October 22, 1986, twenty-nine employees of NET walked off their jobs to protest the return of Cronan.

Critical Issues:

There are three legal issues to consider in this case. 1) Does Cronan qualify under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 2) Did New England Telephone violate state privacy laws by revealing his illness, and 3) Did New England Telephone discriminate against Cronan strictly because he had AIDS.

Legal Issue #1: Does Paul Cronan qualify under the ADA?

In reviewing the ADA, a disability is described as follow:

"Title I requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide qualified individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from the full range of employment- related opportunities available to others. For example, it prohibits discrimination in recruitment, hiring, promotions, training, pay, social activities, and other privileges of employment. It restricts questions that can be asked about an applicant's disability before a job offer is made, and it requires that employers make reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities, unless it results in undue hardship (www.usdoj.gov, 2006).

The Americans with Disabilities Action Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Section 188 of the Workforce Investment Act state, "For purposes of nondiscrimination laws, a person with a disability is generally defined as someone who (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one of more Ð''major life activities,' (2) has a record of such an impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment.

The ADA does consider AIDS to be a disability even when the symptoms do not initially impede their physical abilities. One is considered disabled when others fear them leading to interference with their ability to work, which is a major life activity (Corley, et al., 1996).

"To be found disabled for purposes of Social Security disability benefits, individuals must have a severe disability (or combination of disabilities) that has lasted, or is expected to last, at least 12 months or result in death, and which prevents working at a "substantial gainful activity" level. State vocational rehabilitation (VR) offices will find a person with a disability to be eligible for VR services if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that constitutes or results in a "substantial impediment" to employment for the applicant" (www.dol.gov, 2006).

Under the conditions of the ADA, the disease of HIV/AIDS does qualify as a disability. The conclusion, therefore, is Paul Cronan does have a condition that meets the requirements of the ADA for a disability. In my opinion, he should continue his lawsuit based upon his disability.

Legal Issue #2: Did New England Telephone violate state privacy laws by revealing his illness?

Medical Record Statutes allow employees access to their medical records, but limits the use and disclosure of medical or mental health records (www.bbbonline, 2006).

"Massachusetts statutorily grants a patient the right of access to his medical records maintained by health care providers, hospitals, clinics, other facilities and insurance entities. The disclosure of confidential medical information is restricted by a statutory right of privacy as well as by statutes governing specific entities and medical conditions" (www.mass.gov, 2006).

Under state statutes, medical information is to be kept private. The use and disclosure of medical information is protected under state laws. The conclusion, therefore, is New England Telephone did violate Paul Cronan's right to privacy when his supervisor, and subsequently other supervisors, passed along private information to personnel who were not material to the information. My opinion is Paul Cronan's rights were clearly violated and the management staff created a hostile work environment by disclosing Cronan's disability in an environment that was already predisposed to anti-gay sentiment. NET set Cronan up to fail by disclosing this information and should, therefore, be held accountable.

Legal Issue #3: Did New England Telephone discriminate against Paul Cronan strictly because he had AIDS.

The ADA "prohibits discrimination in recruitment, hiring, promotions, training, pay, social activities, and other privileges of employment.

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