EMPLOYMENT ISSUES UNIQUE TO JEHOVAH'S WITNESS EMPLOYEES

 
JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES NON-BLOOD TRANSFUSION
MEDICAL, HEALTH, AND DISABILITY CASES
PAGE 2 of 2

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JAMES D. GEUSS v. PFIZER was a 1992-96 Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) employment discrimination lawsuit filed by a Jehovah's Witness Elder named James Geuss, who worked at Pfizer's Easton, Pennsylvania manufacturing plant as a laboratory technician from June 1989 to October 1992. Jim Geuss, who suffered from asthma, worked without incident at Pfizer until the Fall of 1991, when Guess' male supervisor was replaced by a female supervisor. Geuss' asthma immediately became an issue. In early 1992, Geuss and Pfizer had several discussions concerning the extent of Geuss' asthma and whether any accommodations could be made. The parties could not agree on a solution to Geuss' problem. On October 5, 1992, Geuss began staying home from work because his doctor, Dr. Eric Schenkel, recommended that he stay at home until he felt better. Pfizer concluded there was nothing more it could do for Geuss, and told him to report to work on October 26, 1992, or be suspended without pay. On October 26, Geuss reported to work with a note from Schenkel that stated Geuss could not work because the work environment exacerbated his asthma. Pfizer suspended Geuss without pay beginning on October 26, 1992, but he continued to receive medical benefits until April 1993. Geuss filed a disability discrimination claim with the EEOC in October 1992. The EEOC apparently eventually issued a right-to-sue letter, and Geuss thereafter brought this federal lawsuit.

At trial, Geuss contended that he requested a number of specific accommodations, including transferring to a different position, retraining, changing job duties, improving the ventilation in the laboratory, and using a self-contained breathing apparatus. Pfizer responded that Geuss never specifically requested any accommodations, and that none of Geuss' now claimed accommodations were reasonable. However, the jury believed Geuss when he claimed that he had requested to be re-assigned back with his previous male supervisor.

After a five day trial, the jury found that Geuss suffered $165,250.00 worth of losses ($65,000.00 in back pay, $89,000.00 in front pay, and $11,250.00 in compensatory damages), and also awarded him $150,000.00 in punitive damages. On Pfizer's motion, the USDC reduced the punitive damages from $150,000.00 to $17,500.00.

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IN RE DANIEL LEE HAMON (1980), AFL-CIO v. GREEN COUNTY CASTING CORPORATION (1980-82), and DANIEL LEE HAMON, RICKY JAKE HAMON, ET AL v. GREEN COUNTY CASTING CORPORATION (1981-87) are related 1980-87 Workers Compensation, NLRB, and Oklahoma state court cases filed by a Jehovah's Witness Minister named Daniel Hamon, then age 32, of Muskogee, Oklahoma, his cousin, Ricky Hamon, and six other co-workers, against their employer, Green County Casting Corp. Ricky J. Hamon was "Chief Steward" of the local Union, and had been involved in 500 previous grievances filed against GREEN.

The employees' union contract with GREEN expired October 31, 1979, and a strike commenced immediately thereafter. Daniel Hamon and Ricky Hamon each served as "Picket Captains" during the strike. A settlement was reached in January 1980, and all workers were recalled except for Daniel L. Hamon, Ricky J. Hamon, and the other defendants due to the fact that AFTER the strike had commenced they had filed Workers Compensation claims against GREEN.

Daniel Hamon's Workers Compensation claim was filed on November 12, 1979, in which Dan Hamon alleged that he had suffered a back injury on October 31, 1979. Daniel Hamon chose his own treating physician, who later provided testimony that Hamon had suffered a 20% PERMANENT PARTIAL DISABILITY. The examining doctor for the State Insurance Fund testified that Dan Hamon had not suffered any "permanent disability" whatsoever, and that as of his examination in January 1980, he had found no temporary physical impairment whatsoever, nor had he found any evidence of any prior medical treatment for such. Despite such testimony, in March 1980, the Oklahoma WC Board granted Daniel Lee Hamon 8% PERMANENT PARTIAL DISABILITY.

Despite winning reinstatement, back wages, interest, etc. before the NLRB, the defendants then proceeded to sue GREEN in Oklahoma state court for additional damages allegedly caused by "retaliatory discharge". Outcome unknown, but indications are that the Defendants also won that court case.

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JONES v. GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION ET AL was a 2006 Ohio federal court decision. In October 2004, an African-American Jehovah's Witness, named Michael Teral Jones, filed a federal lawsuit against his former employer, General Motors Corporation, and UAW Local 798. The pro se Complaint stated nine claims for relief: (1) libel, (2) slander, (3) breach of contract, (4) intentional infliction of emotional distress, (5) violation of the right to privacy, (6) civil conspiracy, (7) discrimination/ retaliation for filing a claim with the EEOC, (8) tortious interference with a beneficial relationship, and (9) wrongful discharge. In 2005-6, the USDC either dismissed with prejudice or granted summary judgment for the defendants on all claims.
 
Michael T. Jones became a permanent employee of GM in 1994. Like most of the details in this case, even Jones' date of termination is unclear, but it was sometime in Summer 2004. Jones apparently was granted a number of sick leaves during his employment at the Dayton area GM plant, which Jones alleged were caused by job stress. Jones' last-date worked was June 26, 2003, and approved sick leave started on June 30, 2003. From that date forward, Jones regularly submitted statements from his physician that he was unable to work. The last such statement indicated Jones could return to work as of March 30, 2004. Although his sick leave was extended by GM to May 17, 2004, Jones never actually returned to work. A month later GM exercised its rights under the collective bargaining agreement to treat his failure to return as a "voluntary quit".  Jones asked two successive union representatives to grieve that decision, claiming he was medically unable to work, but he refused to provide either one of them with medical proof that he was unable to return. Based on his refusal and their lack of any other evidence, they refused to file the requested grievances. The USDC noted:
"Local 798's evidence shows that two successive union representatives who would have been in a position to file a grievance for Mr. Jones asked him for medical documentation and he refused to provide it. Mr. Jones has not responded to that evidence with any admissible evidence of his own. Most importantly, he has not offered any proof beyond his own unsworn assertion that his own doctors continued to certify that he was unable to work at any time after May, 2004. He admits that he failed to appear for several independent medical examinations that GM requested during this time period, but claims it is because they would not reschedule them to meet his personal convenience. What he does not mention in his motion papers but what is shown by his deposition is that he had moved to Florida during this time and, according to the Complaint, enrolled in flight school. How can it be that he was well enough to pass the F.A.A. flight medicine test but was physically unable to return to work at GM and can produce no medical evidence regarding this assertion?"
The USDC disposed of some of Jones' claims without mentioning detailed specifics which occurred at the jobsite. One exception was with regard to Jones' claim of racial discrimination, which the USDC included, in part:
"In his statement of facts supporting his claim of discrimination, Mr. Jones adverts to a situation where he and Lonnie Campbell received what he believes is disparate discipline for the same infraction of work rules. ... The facts about that incident as revealed by the evidence are that on October 23, 2001, Mr. Jones and another worker left work early. ... Both employees were disciplined for this infraction. ... Jones was suspended for two weeks and disqualified from working in Ms. Lum’s department. ...  Jones admitted at his deposition that he does not know but believes that Mr. Campbell received a balance of shift plus three day suspension. ... In accordance with GM’s progressive discipline, an employee’s work record is a factor in assessing the discipline that is appropriate for that employee. Two employees committing the same infraction on the same day would not necessarily receive the same discipline if one had a work record significantly different from the other. ... the case law cited above shows that in a plant where there is a progressive discipline policy, the work records of the persons being disciplined are relevant. It is not for the courts to say whether a particular amount of discipline is justified or not; inferentially, Mr. Jones admits some discipline was justified because he does not deny leaving work early. Rather, the courts are concerned with whether discipline is applied on a racially discriminatory basis. As to that question, Mr. Jones has not produced proof that he and Mr. Campbell were similarly situated.
 
"Mr. Jones also complains of a situation in which he was the victim of a racial slur by Jeff Siebert. ... The context in which this allegedly occurred is as follows: On or about December, 2000, Mr. Jones was working on the Car line. ... Mr. Jones wrote post-it notes about his supervisor, Jeff Adams. The notes said 'Jeff Adams is trying to kill me. Keeps giving me this Shao Lin Tae Kwon Do look which seems to suggest I’m going to kill you.' The notes went on in this vein, claiming that Mr. Adams was 'stalking' him, noting 'So far my arm pit odor has kept him at bay But I’m not sure how long I can hold out ...'  ...  Jones saw the notes as an attempt to get Mr. Adams to lighten up, but the Company saw this as somewhat threatening to Mr. Adams and somewhat accusatory toward Mr. Adams, in both cases improperly so. ... Jones was given a suspension and was asked to see Employee Assistance for evaluation. ...

"Mr. Jones began keeping notes in a journal at this time. ... He recorded every incident at work that he thought was unfair. ... He went to see Mr. Adams’ boss, Jeff Siebert, on or about December 15, 2000. Mr. Siebert told Mr. Jones he agreed with Jeff Adams that the notes had been inappropriate. ... Mr. Jones states that, during this discussion, he saw Mr. Siebert mouth the words 'Dumb nigger' to himself when he thought Mr. Jones was not looking. ... A day or so later, in December, 2000, Mr. Jones was at his workstation when he claims he heard Mr. Siebert talking to Mr. Adams about 25-30 feet away. According to Mr. Jones, Mr. Siebert told Mr. Adams 'fire his ass, you fire that nigger’s ass.' ...
 
"Mr. Jones allegedly complained to the Union that Mr. Siebert and Mr. Adams were discriminating against him. ... Although there were many other employees in the same work area where Mr. Siebert allegedly used a racial slur, Mr. Jones states he did not ask anyone if they had heard the remark. ... When he allegedly complained to the Union, Mr. Jones did not provide the Union with the names of potentially corroborating witness. ... The next day, December 20, 2000, the Union allegedly went with Mr. Jones to the Company with Mr. Jones’ complaint. Again, according to Mr. Jones, neither Mr. Jones nor the Union identified any witnesses to this supposed remark. ... GM investigates any complaint of discrimination and makes a record of its investigation, even where it concludes that the accusation is not accurate. ... GM has no record of any such complaint by Mr. Jones. ... According to Mr. Jones, the same day as he allegedly complained of discrimination by Mr. Siebert, a Quality Manager approached Mr. Jones with an offer of transfer to C crew. ... Jones declined this offer. ... Accepting Mr. Jones’ statements as true for purposes of these Motions, the alleged racial slurs which Mr. Jones attributes to Jeff Siebert would provide evidence of discriminatory animus by Mr. Siebert, but there is no evidence that Mr. Siebert’s alleged animus played any part in any decision adversely affecting Mr. Jones. Instead, the record shows that, as soon as Mr. Jones complained about Mr. Siebert, he was immediately transferred away from him to Mr. Foreman and soon thereafter to Ms. McCauley. Thus the evidence is insufficient to show that GM subjected Mr. Jones to a racially hostile work place: it transferred him as soon as he raised the issue of racial slurs."
A second exception to lack of jobsite specifics was with regard to Jones' claim of retaliation, which the USDC included, in part:
"... [Jones] believes that, after he spoke to Jeff Siebert in January, 2001, complaining about Jeff Adams, GM set out on a course of retaliation against him which lasted until he went out on leave in June, 2003. In this 2 ½ year period, his longest assignment, January-September, 2002, was under Carolyn McCann, a supervisor who he admits was fair to him. His second longest assignment, from March 2001-August, 2001 was under Myra McCauley, about whom he had no complaints except that she disciplined him for loading the wrong control arms on the line, an infraction he admits he did commit. ... Discipline for that admitted infraction many months after the protected conduct by a supervisor Plaintiff admits was fair cannot properly be attributed to retaliation.
 
"By contrast, the supervisors he overtly complained about were Jeff Siebert, Brian Foreman and John Bowles. He also perceived the Trim Group 5 job in which he was placed in late 2001 to be so difficult that he went on stress leave after a few days. GM’s responses to his dissatisfaction in each case do not show an intent to force Mr. Jones into assignments he had trouble with. After he supposedly complained about Jeff Siebert, he was offered a new assignment the same day - which he refused - and transferred to Brian Foreman within a few weeks. He only worked for Mr. Foreman for about three weeks. After he insisted Mr. Foreman singled him out for discipline and then went on a month’s sick leave, he was transferred to Myra McCauley, an assignment that lasted five months, until he admittedly put the wrong control arms on the line. When he found the Trim Group 5 job stressful and went on stress leave, he was put in the door seal trim job under Carolyn McCann, who he admitted was a fair supervisor, for nine months.
 
"After he complained about working under John Bowles, Mr. Jones was reassigned to Crystal Brown, but he almost immediately ran his forklift into a stack of shocks. He was then transferred to work the headliner job, which he described as 'a really really good job, a very nice job'. ... In this job, he worked under Suzette Hamilton who, he admits, treated him fairly. This was the last job he worked. He ran his forklift into the worktable in late June, 2003 and went out on leave without working another job.
 
"This undisputed record does not support plaintiff’s claim that, after he complained to Jeff Siebert, GM began forcing Mr. Jones to work in jobs he was not suited for or under supervisors who he perceived as antagonistic to him. It shows that, rather than forcing Mr. Jones into jobs he did not like, for whatever reason, GM readily removed him from those jobs and that, when he got to jobs he was comfortable in, GM kept him in those jobs for extended periods. Moreover, the record does not show Mr. Jones’ job assignments becoming harsher or more unfavorable as time went on. The last job he was assigned to, after his first forklift accident was, in his works, 'a really, really good job, a very nice job' under a supervisor who was fair to him. The evidence, even construed most favorably to Mr. Jones, does not support a prima facie case of retaliation."
A third exception to lack of jobsite specifics was with regard to Jones' claims of libel, slander, and invasion of privacy, which the USDC included, in part:
"On or about August 18, 2003, Mr. Jones was sent to an Independent Medical Examiner, Dr. Mark Reynolds, for an evaluation. Dr. Reynolds' notes state that Mr. Jones reported 'passive suicidal thoughts . . . . But has no plan or intent.' ... He also recorded in his notes that Mr. Jones stated 'He further planned once to use his military training to deal with the people at General Motors whom he feels have wronged him. He reports however he is a Jehovah’s Witness and feels very guilty about these thoughts and would not act on them.' ... Dr. Reynolds’ notes in Mr. Jones’ benefits file noted 'passive suicidal and homicidal ideation without plan or intent.' ...
 
"In August, 2003, GM’s National Benefits Center notified the Company Medical Department. Labor Relations was notified that Mr. Jones should not be routinely admitted to the plant. ...  Labor Relations instructed security that Mr. Jones should not be admitted to the plant until Labor Relations was notified and approved. ...  Labor Relations did not provide a reason for this instruction. ... Mr. Jones believes that the picture of him sent to the guard shack was also distributed in the plant and that this caused his co-workers, and eventually, members of his church, to question whether he was violent. ... On or about August 26, 2003, Mr. Jones sought admission to the plant. The security guard informed him that she would need to call Labor Relations first. Mr. Jones, upon hearing this information, decided to leave without entering the plant. ... In his deposition, Plaintiff made clear that his complaints of libel, slander, and invasion of privacy are based on the fact that the information from Dr. Reynolds was transmitted to the plant with the result that he was denied entry in August, 2003, and Mr. Jones’ belief that word of this action reached his co-workers and, eventually, members of his religious community. ... The alleged invasion of privacy, similarly, is that the 'defendants gained access to personal information from the National Benefit Center Unauthorized and did share that information with unauthorized third parties and did out of pure malice and spite subject plaintiff to embarrassment, humiliation, loss of status and significant and lifelong loss and damage."

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IN RE JAMAICAN JW EMPLOYEE was a 1994-99 Ontario Workplace Appeals Tribunal case which involved an unidentified Jehovah's Witness male Employee, who was claiming psychological disability caused by workplace harassment due to his black Jamaican race and Jehovah's Witness religion. Not so surprisingly, this case was not JAM's first instance of employment problems.

After arriving in Canada from Jamaica, in 1974, the 18 year-old JAM worked only a few weeks for a cabinetmaker before a fellow Jehovah's Witness had to get him a job at a clock manufacturing firm. There, JAM allegedly was occasionally the target of racial discrimination, and he recalled at least two occasions when he was called the N-word. He reported the second name-calling incident to a supervisor who only shrugged it off. JAM was fired after six years with that employer. JAM now claims it was because of his racial origin. JAM filed a formal complaint regarding that dismissal, but was only awarded two weeks severance pay. From 1980 until 1986, JAM completed some high school courses, but could not complete a carpentry vocational course, and held no meaningful employment.

JAM was hired by the latest employer -- a furniture factory -- in June 1986. Curiously, although JAM claims that he got the job via his own efforts -- despite discrimination against him -- his first two supervisors just coincidentally happened to both be fellow Jehovah's Witnesses.  The first time that JAM was fired by latest employer was in May 1988 -- due to poor workmanship, despite both verbal and written warnings, and even a one-day suspension. JAM's Union obtained a settlement whereby JAM was reinstated. JAM was fired a second time due to poor workmanship in July 1988, but the termination was withdrawn after threat of Union intervention.

JAM's two Jehovah's Witness supervisors left the company in 1991. JAM claims that repeated instances of religious and racial discrimination began thereafter. JAM left his job in September 1992, and was diagnosed with and treated for a "neurosis". In November 1992, JAM filed a complaint alleging religious and race discrimination with the Ontario Human Rights Commission. JAM returned to work for two weeks in March 1993, but was sent home due to his emotional condition. JAM returned to work for one week in September 1993, but was sent home by the employer, who asked for a medical clearance. JAM thereafter filed this case for disability compensation. In November 1994, a hearing on JAM's disability case ended with a DENIAL. JAM appealed, and multiple hearings were held from 1996 until this decision in 1999.

The Ontario Workplace Appeals Tribunal ruled that JAM was entitled to disability benefits due to a psychological condition caused by the actions of JAM's co-workers and a supervisor. However, although there multiple racial and religious slurs and incidents, the Tribunal ruled that such incidents were NOT the result of racial or religious prejudice. Rather, the Tribunal found that such were the actions of frustrated and irritated co-workers reacting to repeated instances of JAM's own incompetence, poor workmanship, and failure to listen to and cooperate with co-workers and supervisors.

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FULGHEN v. POSTMASTER GENERAL and FULGHEN v. POSTMASTER GENERAL were related 2010 Michigan federal court cases which involved an African-American Jehovah's Witness female named Damita J. Fulghen. Damita Fulghen was employed by USPS as a CSR at a post office in Detroit. Fulghen suffers from chronic ulcerative colitis, an incurable digestive tract condition that causes intermittent abdominal pain and difficulty controlling the frequency of bowel movements. These two court cases relate only to the following actions in 2005.

Fulghen was late for work seven times between March 2, 2005 and March 17, 2005, and she also took leave of approximately four hours on March 7, 2005. Fulghen was also late for work on April 7, 2005. Fulghen alleged that her medical condition caused her to arrive at work late, because on days when her condition flares up, she must begin the day by laying on her side for thirty minutes. On April 14, 2005, Supervisor issued a Letter of Warning indicating that Fulghen had failed to adhere to USPS attendance regulations. The letter stated that it was given to afford Fulghen an opportunity to correct the issue. Fulghen responded by filing a grievance through her union. The parties settled this grievance, and the Letter of Warning was accordingly modified to an "Official Discussion".

On May 3, 2005, Supervisor observed Fulghen holding a G-10 penalty envelope addressed to a union official. Supervisor informed Fulghen that these envelopes could not be used for personal correspondence. Fulghen then made a phone call, and Supervisor asked her if she was on her break. Fulghen allegedly responded by asking, “What do you think?” Supervisor claims that she told Fulghen to count this time as her break. Fifteen minutes later, Fulghen returned to work at the store’s customer window. USPS claims that Fulghen subsequently took a break at 10:00 AM her usual break time. Supervisor observed a number of customers waiting in line, and announced over the intercom that clerks were needed at the window, but Fulghen did not return until 10:15 AM, the usual end of her break.

On May 4, 2005, Supervisor issued Fulghen a written Notice of Suspension, stating that she was to be suspended for seven days beginning June 6, 2005. The Notice indicated that Fulghen violated Postal Service regulations by failing to follow the instructions of her supervisor. Fulghen filed a grievance challenging this suspension. On May 27, 2005, the parties settled the grievance, rescinding the suspension before it took effect.

On May 29, 2005, Fulghen filed an administrative discrimination complaint, alleging that her ulcerative colitis constituted a disability, and that Supervisor gave her the Letter of Warning and the Notice of Suspension because of this alleged disability. Fulghen also asserted that the Letter of Warning and Notice of Suspension were the result of retaliation.

On June 6, 2005, Fulghen called to inform Supervisor that she would be late for work due to illness. Fulghen requested leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for this absence. Supervisor contacted the local FMLA Coordinator to determine whether the request should be approved. FMLA Coordinator sent Supervisor a message stating that Fulghen’s existing FMLA documentation was not properly certified by the physician to cover tardiness. Supervisor denied Fulghen’s request for FMLA leave and explained that such required certification from a physician. The FMLA Coordinator also sent Fulghen a letter the following day, instructing her to return medical documentation, within fifteen days, excusing the previous day’s absence.

On June 7, 2005, Supervisor informed Fulghen that effective June 13, 2005, her shift would be changed to her original “bid” shift of 9:15 AM to 6:15 PM. Fulghen responded by writing letters to the local Area Manager and United States Postmaster General. The following day, Fulghen filed a second administrative discrimination complaint, alleging that the shift change constituted retaliation against her. Approximately one week after Fulghen’s new schedule took effect, the acting Area Manager informed Supervisor that after one year of working a different schedule, Fulghen could not be placed on her original bid schedule. Supervisor apologized to Fulghen and explained that the following Monday, she should report for work at her usual starting time of 8:00 AM.

As of July 1, 2005, Fulghen had not submitted additional documentation to USPS’s Medical Unit concerning her leave request. FMLA Coordinator sent her a letter that day stating that because Fulghen had not provided updated medical documentation, her June 6, 2005 absence was not FMLA protected. On July 12, 2005, Fulghen obtained a letter from her treating physician stating that Fulghen's illness would sometimes cause her to be both tardy and sometimes absent. Fulghen submitted this letter to USPS’s Medical Unit.
 
Damita Fulghen filed another administrative complaint in July 2005, alleging that USPS discriminated against her on the basis of a disability by denying her FMLA leave request. She also alleged that USPS denied her request in retaliation for her prior EEO activity. Both of Fulghen’s administrative complaints were investigated at a hearing in April 2007, before Administrative Judge Treeter of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In June 2007, Judge Treeter issued a decision, finding that USPS had not discriminated or retaliated against Fulghen. Treeter concluded that Supervisor was unaware of the nature of Fulghen’s impairment, and that Fulghen had not previously submitted documentation supporting her use of FMLA leave in instances of tardiness. Treeter also concluded that Fulghen’s suspension was not retaliatory; rather, she was suspended for taking a break when Supervisor had instructed her to assist customers at the store’s window. Treeter accordingly entered judgment for USPS. Fulghen appealed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Office of Federal Operations, but her appeal was denied on September 30, 2009. The Office of Federal Operations denied reconsideration on January 21, 2010.
 
Damita Fulghen responded by filing two federal lawsuits in March 2010, asserting claims under Title VII for retaliation, and employment discrimination on the basis of a disability. Fulghen also claimed that USPS violated the FMLA by denying her request for leave. The USDC granted USPS's motion for summary judgment in each case, stating in part from both opinions (consolidated, out-of-order):

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant last violated the FMLA by denying her request for leave in June 2005. She filed this action in March 2010, nearly five years later. Plaintiff's claim is untimely, ... . Tolling of the statute of limitations cannot save Plaintiff's claim. District courts have held that because a plaintiff need not exhaust administrative remedies before bringing an FMLA action, the filing of a discrimination charge with the EEOC does not toll the FMLA statute of limitations. ... ... ...

Defendant contends that Plaintiff has not suffered an adverse employment action, and therefore cannot establish her prima facie case. The Court agrees. An employer's action is not considered adverse simply because it makes the employee unhappy or resentful. ... Only an action that represents a change in the terms and conditions of employment gives rise to a discrimination claim. ... Plaintiff has pointed to no change in the terms and conditions of her employment resulting from the denial of FMLA leave to cover instances of tardiness. ...

The Letter of Warning merely noted Plaintiff’s failure to adhere to attendance regulations for the purpose of allowing her to correct the issue. ... The Letter did not modify in any way the terms and conditions of Plaintiff’s employment, and cannot be considered an adverse employment action. As for the Notice of Suspension, it is settled that a discrimination claim does not arise until a proposed action is implemented. ... Plaintiff’s proposed suspension was rescinded before it began, and thus cannot support her discrimination claim. Her schedule change is not actionable because of its short duration. ... ... ...

Plaintiff alleges retaliation based on the same action supporting her discrimination claim. The Court has concluded, however, that denial of Plaintiff's request for FMLA leave to cover instances of tardiness did not constitute an adverse employment action. Because Plaintiff must identify an adverse employment action as part of her prima facie case, her retaliation claim fails as a matter of law. ...

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VERNA J. PLEASURE v. UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA and PLEASURE v. RENO AIR were two related Alaska cases both settled around 1983. In December 1980, an African-American Jehovah's Witness, named Verna J. Pleasure, was severely injured while working as a Field Coordinator for the University of Alaska. Preparing to takeoff on the ice-bound Yukon River, the Cessna pilot realized the airplane had a flat tire. The pilot got out and went for repair tools. For unknown reason, Pleasure exited the running aircraft, and was struck by the Cessna's whirling propeller. Pleasure ended up losing her left arm, and "supposedly" would have lost her life but-for the respirator tube that prevented her from telling doctors that she was a Jehovah's Witness, and would not consent to the seven units of blood eventually transfused into her arm. Settlement terms unknown.
 
VERNA J. PLEASURE v. RENO AIR was a second lawsuit against Reno Air, in 1996-7, which was filed after Pleasure fell from her wheelchair while being wheeled onto a Reno Air passenger plane on June 15, 1996. Settled on November 6, 1997, for $120,000.00.
 
VERNA J. PLEASURE v. ACCESS ALASKA was a 1991-93 Alaska federal discrimination court case. After the above described airplane accident, Verna J. Pleasure began to work as a caseworker for Access Alaska Inc. in 1983. Pleasure helped train and counsel people for independent living after disability or injury. In this lawsuit, Verna Pleasure alleged that she was discriminated against on the basis of race, disability and sex. Specifically, Pleasure claimed that other employees received more assistance than she; that she was denied a pay raise; that she was denied sick leave; that she was not allowed to attend certain professional seminars; and that she was once improperly suspended for five days.
 
The USDC ruled against Verna Pleasure holding that the only employees who received more assistance than Pleasure were those who were even more disabled; that Pleasure was already AA's highest paid employee, and remained so even after the pay raises in question; that the only time Pleasure was denied "sick leave" was when she requested such IN ADVANCE; that Pleasure was denied attendance at seminars only due to agency cutbacks; and that Pleasure was properly suspended after she intentionally disobeyed a direct order not to deinstitutionalize a certain patient. On Pleasure's appeal, the USCA affirmed.
 
VERNA J. PLEASURE v. ACCESS ALASKA  Verna J. Pleasure reportedly ceased working for Access Alaska sometime during her federal discrimination lawsuit against that same employer. It is not known how such occurred, but it not likely that Access Alaska would have re-hired Pleasure if she had simply quit. There may be even another lawsuit which is yet to show up on the internet, which may have resulted in Access Alaska being forced to re-hire Verna Pleasure.
 
In any event, Pleasure was working for Access Alaska in the mid-1990s, and Verna Pleasure filed Worker's Compensation claims seeking permanent total disability (PTD) benefits, temporary total disability (TTD) benefits, permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits, permanent partial impairment (PPI) benefits, medical benefits, transportation costs, reemployment benefits, interest, attorney fees, and legal costs. A hearing was held in September 1998. At that hearing, Pleasure claimed she approached many attorneys in Anchorage, but NONE would take her case after her own attorney withdrew in October 1995. Pleasure's WC claims were based on these alleged past incidents:
 
1. Pleasure injured her right arm and lower back attempting to move a motorized wheelchair on May 20, 1987, and received chiropractic care.
 
2. Pleasure injured her left foot on August 8, 1990, when a box of office supplies fell on it.  She was off work as a result of this injury until August 26, 1990.
 
3. Pleasure re-injured the left foot on April 7, 1992, when another box of office supplies fell on it, and returned to work on April 26, 1992.
 
4. Pleasure injured her right shin on August 12, 1993, when an irate client threw a bag of Mountain Dew bottles at her, but she was not restricted from work.
 
5. Pleasure completed a report of injury on April 8, 1994, claiming her work caused right arm pain, rendering her unable to use the arm.
 
Evidence at the hearing disclosed that, in September 1994, Verna Pleasure went to San Francisco for an examination with psychiatrist Carroll M. Brodsky, M.D., and psychologist Susan Detrick, Ph.D.  Dr. Detrick indicated a battery of psychological tests showed that Verna Pleasure was prone to "symptom magnification" and "motivated by secondary gain". Dr. Brodsky found Pleasure suffering from a "somatoform disorder", and had released her to return to work.
 
During the Hearing, there were numerous instances of Pleasure testifying to one thing, and the record showing something else. Pleasure testified at the hearing that her use of a crutch was doctor-ordered, while she had testified at her deposition that no doctors had ever even suggested the use of a crutch. Pleassure testified at the hearing that she was wearing "high heels", and that she twisted her ankle when the file folders fell on it, while at her deposition, Pleasure denied twisting her ankle, and stated that she had been wearing her “purple flats”.
 
At the hearing, Pleasure testified her deposition testimony was inaccurate because she was taking prescription pain medications, Anexia and Tylenol with Codein, which seriously affected her ability to think or recall; but that she took only Toridal now, which did not affect her mental acuity, and she was completely lucid for the hearing.  She was again confronted with her deposition testimony that she had taken no medications prior to the deposition, except Toridol, and that she was completely lucid for the deposition.
 
Pleasure testified that her 1996 accident with Reno Air caused her no loss of wages, nor a loss of future earnings, because she was totally disabled by her work injuries. Verna Pleasure was then confronted with her own "Complaint for Damages" to Reno Air, in which she claimed loss of wages and loss of future earning capacity from that accident.

At the hearing, Verna Pleasure’s sister, Cynthia Edwards, testified that after her work accidents Verna became less and less able to work or care for herself.  Edwards testified Verna was eventually totally unable to care for herself, and that is why she was going to see a pain specialist in California when she had her accident boarding the Reno Air flight.  Edwards testified she accompanied Verna to California as her caretaker. Cynthia Edwards testified she had planned to spend a few days in Disneyland while Verna was undergoing treatment. Under cross-examination, Cynthia Edwards denied that Verna had also planned to go to Disneyland, because of her disability. Documents from the Reno Air settlement were introduced for purposes of testing the credibility of the witnesses. These included the "Complaint for Damages", her Initial Disclosures, her Answers to interrogatories, the signed Statement of Verna Pleasure, and her Settlement and Release Agreement. The Statement of Verna Pleasure claimed that Verna Pleasure had intended to spend a week and a half in Disneyland on vacation with Cynthia Edwards, but this had been disrupted by the Reno Air accident.  When confronted with this, Cynthia Edwards modified her testimony to conform to that Statement.
 
The Alaska Worker's Compensation Board denied Verna J. Pleasure's claims for Worker's Compensation benefits, stating in part:
Industrial Indemnity has directed our attention towards inconsistencies in the employee’s testimony. We find that, in the hearing, the employee flatly contradicted her deposition testimony concerning whether her ankle had been injured in her foot accidents at work, about her lucidity and her use of narcotic medications during the deposition, and about the medical advice she may have received concerning her use of a crutch. We also find the employee’s hearing testimony concerning the work-relatedness of her claimed disability flatly contradicted her legal documents in her claim against Reno Air.  We are particularly troubled by the employee’s testimony that she had her son surreptitiously complete portions of her psychological testing during her evaluation by Dr. Detrick. We are compelled to find the employee is not credible.
 
[Cynthia]Edwards testified inconsistently concerning the employee’s plans for a trip to Disneyland during for her California medical consultation in 1995.  Also, the uncontradicted evidence in the record indicates Keith Pleasure completed portions of the employee’s psychological testing, deceiving Dr. Detrick. We must also find these two witnesses are not credible ... .
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QUEBEC v. INSANE MALE JEHOVAH'S WITNESS EMPLOYEE was a 2004-08 Canadian criminal court case in which a typically unidentified, then 48 year-old, unmarried Male Jehovah's Witness Employee was first convicted of Criminal Harassment and Stalking, but thereafter adjudged under Canadian Law to not be criminally responsible due to mental incapacity, and thereafter ordered into psychiatric confinement and treatment.
 
From December 2001 until May 2004, unmarried 48 year-old Male JW Employee continuously harassed and stalked a married female co-worker. JW Employee repeatedly left love letters, candy, flowers, etc. on the co-workers desk despite that co-worker repeatedly telling JW Employee that she was happily married, and that she had zero intention of ever beginning an affair with him. JW Employee's canned response was that "Love can wait". Typically, the employer did little about the situation until JW Employee became tired of "waiting", and began to accuse the female co-worker of not wanting him because she was having an affair with the owner of the business. Then, criminal charges were pursued.
 
As soon as JW Employee was conditionally released from psychiatric custody in latter 2005, he began to re-contact former co-worker, former boss, and then also the boss's wife. JW Employee continued to have contact with the legal system for the following several years. JW Employee also had continuous problems with subsequent employers due to JW Employee inappropriately commenting to female customers, inappropriately asking children about their mothers, etc. This record ends there, but the unidentified JW Employee undoubtedly continued same, sinilar, or even worse conduct such that he likely is currently incarcerated.
 
Amusingly, the record makes note of the fact that the various legal and health staffers had difficulties working with JW Employee because all he wanted to talk about was his Jehovah's Witness beliefs and practices, and how such interplayed with whatever it was that they wanted to discuss.
 
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QUEBEC v. INSANE FEMALE JEHOVAH'S WITNESS EMPLOYEE was a 2009-11 Canadian criminal court case in which a typically unidentified, unmarried Female Jehovah's Witness, who was employed as a Receptionist at a Hospital fell in love with a married Doctor (with children) whom she believed had fell in love with her. In 2009, this JW Employee was terminated by the Hospital after going through that Hospital's HR procedures for stalking and harassing that Doctor. That Doctor had filed criminal charges against JW Employee in conjunction with his complaint to the Hospital. Female JW was found guilty, and a protective order was issued. Six months after all that, Female JW showed up at the Doctor's family residence with a suitcase -- informing him that she was there to move in with him. A second set of criminal charges were prosecuted, with Female JW adjudged under Canadian Law to not be criminally responsible due to mental incapacity, and thereafter ordered into psychiatric confinement and treatment.
 
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KROHMER-BURKETT v. HARTFORD INSURANCE COMPANY was a 2005 Florida federal court decision. A Jehovah's Witness, named Dianne Krohmer-Burkett, was employed as a Coding Specialist at Columbia New Port Richey Hospital until January 1997. As part of Dianne Krohmer's benefits package, she was covered by a group disability insurance policy issued by Hartford. As was curiously fairly common in the 1990s amongst females in the Jehovah's Witnesses community, Dianne Krohmer-Burkett came down with symptoms associated with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, sometime around 1996.
 
Dianne Burkett received short term disability benefits from approximately January 1997 until June 1997, when she started receiving long term disability benefits. Pursuant to the Insurance Plan, Krohmer-Burkett received LTD benefits for the next 24 months, or until June 4, 1999. After June 4, 1999, to be eligible for continued LTD benefits, Krohmer-Burkett was required to provide medical proof that she was prevented from performing the essential duties of "any occupation". [Unfortunately, this Court Opinion is unclear as to how long Hartford paid LTD benefits to Dianne Krohmer-Burkett. The court opinion appears to mix up dates from 1999 and 2001. While the court opinion seems to indicate that Hartford stopped LTD benefits in 1999, it also indicates that benefits were paid until 2001.] Apparently, after reviewing Krohmer-Burkett's medical proof in June 1999, Hartford extended her LTD benefits until June 2001.
 
In 2001, Krohmer-Burkett was again required to submitted medical proof that she was prevented from performing the essential duties of "any occupation", in order for LTD benefits to be extended until June 2003. Hartford reviewed all the medical proof provided by Dianne Krohmer-Burkett, plus video surveillance of Krohmer-Burkett conducted by a private investigation firm, which the court opinion described as:
"On June 25, 2001, in order to obtain information as to Plaintiff’s level of activity, Defendant hired Dempsey Investigations, Inc. to conduct visual and video surveillance of Plaintiff. During the surveillance, Dempsey captured Plaintiff for 14.5 minutes performing the following activities:
'loading 7 bags of groceries, 2 one gallon jugs of water, 24 [soda] can box from shopping cart to the back seat of the vehicle, lifting grocery bags two at a time, lifting one gallon jug and 24 [soda] can box from bottom of cart on one occasion, bending into back seat area without hand support with above items, entering/exiting a motor vehicle with no difficulties, running errands, wedding, placing a sun guard up against from windshield and twisting upper body from sitting position.'
 
In his report, the investigator noted that at no time during his surveillance did Plaintiff 'exhibit any apparent physical limitations'.”
In July 2001, Hartford denied Krohmer-Burkett's claim for LTD benefits to be extended for [apparently] a third two-year period, until June 2003. Krohmer-Burkett subsequently appealed Hartford’s decision and submitted additional medical information in support of her appeal. In response to Krohmer-Burkett’s appeal, Hartford, through Medical Advisory Group, LLC, conducted a medical review of Krohmer-Burkett's entire claim file and treatment records. The review was performed by Dr. Todd J. Lyon, who, upon completing his review, provided Hartford with a nine page report detailing and describing the contents of his review and medical consultations. Dr. Lyon also offered his medical findings and conclusions.
 
At least two of Krohmer-Burkett's doctors diagnosed her with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, cervical and back pain, and irritable bowel syndrome. Between those problems, and an auto accident in January 2001, and a second auto accident in May 2001, Krohmer-Burkett's doctors had restricted her to "drive, sit, stand and walk less than 15 minutes at a time and less than 1 hour a day."
 
However, in a May 2001 claimant interview sheet completed by Krohmer-Burkett, she indicated that she volunteered for Jehovah’s Witnesses and did field ministry, which involved door to door calling. Krohmer-Burkett also indicated that she attended the five weekly Jehovah's Witness meetings, [which amounted to nearly five hours total length].
 
Based on the information reviewed, Dr. Lyon opined that Krohmer-Burkett was capable of engaging in not only sedentary work, but light work on a full time basis. Hartford, thereafter, conducted an Employability Analysis to determine what occupation Krohmer-Burkett was qualified for and capable of performing based on her physical restrictions. The analysis identified Krohmer-Burkett’s previous occupation of Coding Specialists along with various other occupations. Based upon Dr. Lyon’s report and the results of the Employability Analysis, Hartford upheld its decision to terminate Krohmer-Burkett’s LTD benefits.
 
Subsequent to this second denial, Krohmer-Burkett filed another appeal and submitted additional records for Hartford’s consideration. Interestingly, these newer 2002 medical records included records from a third doctor (but not the only doctor), a Dr. Zaidi, which had been prepared in connection with a separate disability claim filed by Krohmer-Burkett with another insurance company, Mass Mutual. [Court Opinion does not explain from where this second disability coverage and claim came.]
 
In evaluating Krohmer-Burkett’s second appeal, Hartford forwarded all of Krohmer-Burkett’s available medical records to the University Disability Consortium for an independent medical review. This review was conducted by Dr. Jerome Siegel. In performing his review of Krohmer-Burkett’s file, Dr. Siegel concurred with Krohmer-Burkett’s diagnoses of fibromyalgia and CFS, but, after reviewing the video surveillance and speaking with Dr. Zaidi, determined that Krohmer-Burkett was capable of sedentary to light duty work with physical restrictions. Thus, Hartford again denied Krohmer-Burkett’s continuation of LTD benefits. Thereafter, Dianne Krohmer-Burkett filed this federal lawsuit under ERISA. In October 2005, the USDC granted Hartford's motion for summary judgment, stating in part:
"Plaintiff argues that because the medical records submitted by various physicians indicated that Plaintiff’s fibromyalgia, CFS and other medicinal problems rendered her disabled and unable to engage in any sustained work activity, Defendant’s decision to terminate Plaintiff’s benefits was wrong. However, based on the evidence before Defendant at the time of its decision, this Court does not agree with Plaintiff’s assessment. There does not appear to be any dispute as to whether Plaintiff’s suffers from fibromyalgia or CFS. What is disputed and had to be demonstrated by Plaintiff to Defendant at the time her claim for benefits was being considered was whether Plaintiff’s conditions rendered her totally disabled as defined under the Plan. Based on a review of the evidence in the record, this Court cannot say that Defendant’s decision to deny Plaintiff continued benefits under the Plan was de novo wrong. Defendant thoroughly gathered and reviewed all medical information, including that information provided by Plaintiff, concerning Plaintiff’s condition. Pursuant to the Plan, in order to continue receiving LTD benefits, Plaintiff, as a direct consequence of her disability, had to be 'so prevented from performing one or more of the essential duties of any occupation for which she was qualified.' Nothing in the record indicates Plaintiff was so prevented. As such, this Court will not disturb Defendant’s determination."
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On December 27, 2005, a 20 year-old Jehovah's Witness, named Jonathan D’Attilio, died from unknown injuries received in a crash while piloting a helicopter owned by Inter-Island Helicopters of Lihue, Kauai, which is a D’Attilio Family-owned business, which reportedly does or did operate similar businesses in Sandpoint, Idaho, Oklahoma City, and Phoenix, Arizona. This wasn't the first, nor last, crash of an Inter-Island Helicopters aircraft, in which people died.
 
On Christmas Day, 2005, per a contract with local government, Inter-Island Helicopters was asked to help extinguish a brushfire on Kauai. Jonathan D’Attilio was attempting to collect water at De Mello Reservoir, in a 140-gallon bucket slung on a 25-foot line under his helicopter, when he crashed. The flight was D'Attilio's first solo external load flight, and he was picking up his first load of water that day. At the time of the crash, there were light winds and visibility was clear. A witness told investigators that the helicopter spun rapidly, then stopped, and slowly descended out of view behind trees. The helicopter possibly struck some trees before landing upside down in the Reservoir. Jonathan D’Attilio was pulled from the helicopter and transported to Wilcox Hospital. His specific injuries are not known, but given that he did not die until 2:00 AM, on December 27, 2007, one can't help but wonder whether internal injuries and needed blood transfusions were possibly an issue.
 
Per the official NTSB report, the crash was caused by lack of experience and the failure of the 20-year-old pilot to maintain control of the aircraft. D’Attilio had received clearance only that month to fly helicopters with an external load, and he had obtained his helicopter pilot rating in 2004. D’Attilio reportedly had a private pilot's license, but not a commercial license, which the FAA typically required for pilot's flying on behalf of governmental agencies.
 
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BOBRIK v. NORTHWEST CENTER FOR THE RETARDED was a 2005 Washington State federal court decision. A Jehovah's Witness, named Robert Bobrik, first filed a complaint with the Seattle Office of Civil Rights, and possibly with other state and/or federal agencies, and eventually filed a federal lawsuit against his former employer alleging that his former employer failed to "accommodate" his various disabilities, violated the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, and unlawfully discharged him in "retaliation" for his exercising his legal rights. The USDC summarily dismissed Bobrik's lawsuit in July 2005. Something tells me the USDC's decision may have been appealed.

Northwest Center for the Retarded is a charitable organization that raises funds for its programs by operating donation centers throughout the Seattle area to receive donations of household goods. Since Northwest Center for the Retarded is an organization dedicated to finding vocational opportunities for individuals with disabilities, NWCR also endeavors to employ individuals with disabilities. Robert Bobrik began working at an NWCR donation center in 2000. Bobrik suffered from a condition that limited the mobility in his back and legs. Bobrik's disability did not permit him to lift heavy objects. Aware of that limitation, NWCR consistently exempted Bobrik from lifting items over 10 pounds, and generally ensured that his job required only light duty work. Bobrik worked on the second floor of the building. Bobrik had difficulty ascending the outside staircase that most other employees used, so NWCR allowed Bobrik access to the first floor of the building so that he could use an indoor elevator.

In 2003, a series of disputes arose between Bobrik and NWCR. In January 2003, a new tenant moved into the building housing the donation center. The new tenant replaced the first floor keypad access with a lock and key. For security reasons, the new tenant would not provide keys to NWCR employees, but Bobrik was still permitted to use the door to access the elevator. Mr. Bobrik complained that the door was sometimes not unlocked by the start of his shift at 7:00 A.M. NWCR responded by taking measures to help ensure that the door would be open by 7:00 A.M. Bobrik’s supervisor began propping the door open himself to ensure Bobrik had access. In addition, NWCR assured Bobrik that he would not be considered tardy if he was late to work because he could not access the first floor door. There was no indication that Bobrik was ever forced to use the stairs. There was no indication that Bobrik was ever subject to adverse treatment as a result of his need to use the elevator.

In early February 2003, Bobrik suffered an unspecified injury to his back while working. Bobrik's doctor recommended two weeks of light duty work. Bobrik did not request additional accommodation from NWCR as a result of this recommendation. On February 21, 2003, NWCR announced a reorganization of its donation center staffing. Employees in Bobrik’s position did not start work until 8:00 A.M., so Bobrik’s issues regarding the first floor door became moot as a result of the change. However, the reorganization had the effect of placing the burden of loading and unloading vans on employees in Bobrik’s position. At that very meeting, Bobrik immediately began to complain that he could not fulfill the new duties. Bobrik was asked if he would wait to discuss his limitations after the meeting. However, Bobrik declined to speak with supervisors afterwards.

On February 27, 2003, two supervisors approached Bobrik and provided him with a job description of his restructured position, and asked him to have a doctor address which duties he could not perform. Later that same day, Bobrik saw his doctor. Based on Bobrik’s representation that NWCR would require him to work full time, regular duties, which involved bending and lifting, the doctor recommended four weeks off work. Bobrik stopped going to work, but did not inform NWCR that he would be taking leave. In response to a contact from Dr. Chilczuk, an NWCR human resources employee telephoned Bobrik on March 3, 2003. Bobrik stated that he could perform light duty work. The HR employee contacted Dr. Chilczuk to have him confirm Bobrik’s eligibility for light duty work. Dr. Chilczuk responded that Bobrik would be ready for light duty work by approximately March 13, 2003.

In the meantime, NWCR employees contacted Bobrik to schedule a meeting to discuss possible accommodations for Mr. Bobrik under the reorganization plan. Mr. Bobrik attended a meeting with three NWCR supervisors on March 10, 2003. Bobrik called the main supervisor a “bigot” and told him he would “do well as some commandant in a Nazi concentration camp.”  Bobrik walked out of the meeting without ever discussing his need for additional disability accommodation. Bobrik was forewarned that his leaving would be construed as a resignation. Bobrik left, and NWCR terminated his employment. Click HERE to read another Robert Bobrik federal lawsuit.

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COFFMAN v. METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE CO. was a 2002 West Virginia federal lawsuit involving a Jehovah's Witness named Frank H. Coffman, II. Coffman (age 53) was formerly a territory representative for Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, a division of American Home Products Corporation. Coffman's duties included visits to health care professionals, pharmacies, and others. He also distributed samples, sold AHPC pharmaceutical products, and maintained account records. Coffman earned a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling. Prior to serving as a Wyeth-Ayerst territory representative, he worked for two years as a Disability Claims Examiner for the West Virginia Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. While at Wyeth-Ayerst, Coffman participated in the Employees Group Insurance Program, which included short-term and long-term disability coverage through Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.

In November 1996 Coffman ceased work after returning from a cruise with his wife. On December 19, 1996 Coffman executed a Statement of Claim for STD benefits. In April 1997, Coffman sought LTD benefits while review of his STD benefits claim was in progress at MetLife. On his Statement of Claim, Coffman asserted he was unable to engage in any gainful employment and could not return to work "until an effective treatment for my condition is found." The attending physician's Statement of Functional Capacity of May 2, 1997 listed Coffman's primary disabling condition as Chronic Fatique Syndrome and a secondary diagnosis of vertigo. Coffman and MetLife went back and forth vigorously, but on September 30, 1997, MetLife reversed itself and approved Coffman's claim for STD and LTD benefits up to September 30, 1997. The total amount of benefits received amounted to $7800.00 for STD and $14,678.39 for LTD. MetLife requested additional medical information to support the continuation of benefits after September 30, 1997. Thereafter, Coffman vigorously pursued his claim, and MetLife vigorously investigated such, including surveilling Coffman. The court record includes details of Coffman's travels out of the home to shop and attend Jehovah's Witness meetings and Conventions:

"MetLife placed him under video surveillance to document his physical activities. InPhoto Surveillance observed Coffman on September 24, 27, 28 and 29, and October 12, 1997. ..., on September 28, ... Coffman left home by 9:40 a.m. and drove himself and his wife the 14-minute trip from his house to the Charleston Civic Center to a church activity. The report notes Coffman "parked on the third level of the adjacent parking garage in a handicapped parking space next to the elevators." ... Coffman carried two tote bags into the Civic Center, where he remained for more than seven hours. At 5:07 p.m., Coffman returned to his car carrying the same two bags over his shoulder, along with a small cardboard box. He appears in no apparent discomfort, able to bend and very mobile. At 5:17 p.m., after driving himself and his wife to a restaurant 10 minutes away, he quickly walked through the rain into the restaurant, holding the door for his wife. Surveillance was discontinued at this point. ... On October 12, 1997 more surveillance was taken. Coffman left his house at 10:01 a.m. driving with his wife accompanying him as a passenger. Coffman traveled for 10 minutes to the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses. Once parked, he is seen bent over his vehicle and lifting a large brief box, which he carried into the building. He left two hours later with the same brief box. He traveled to a local Captain D'sTM, where he and his wife had lunch for about 45 minutes. He is seen standing in line to order, gets his food, eats and converses over lunch. He then left the restaurant and drove the car to Charleston Area Medical Center."

The end result was that MetLife concluded that Coffman was able to resume performing the duties of a territory representative. During this same period, Coffman had also pursued SSI Disability, which was initially denied, but later granted. As requested by Coffman, the employer exercised its oversight authority as plan sponsor to review MetLife's earlier claims decision. A request was made for MetLife to again fully review the claim. The memorandum recommended that the employer's "Retirement Committee" deny the appeal for lack of evidence of disability. On January 27, 1999 the Retirement Committee deferred its determination pending further review by the Employee Benefits and Law Departments and outside legal counsel. On April 6, 1999 the Retirement Committee upheld MetLife's determination. On August 20, 1999, after reviewing the information in the appeal file, MetLife also upheld its prior termination decision. On January 10, 2001 Coffman instituted this action. His four count Amended Complaint asserted claims against both AHPC and MetLife for (1) wrongful denial of benefits (Counts I and III); and (2) violation of the West Virginia Unfair Trade Practices Act (WVUTPA), West Virginia Code Sections 33-11-1 et seq. (Counts II and IV). Counts II and IV were previously dismissed as preempted by ERISA. See Coffman v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 138 F. Supp.2d 764, 766-67 (S.D.W. Va. 2001).

In the end, this USDC ruled in MetLife's favor: "Based on the present record and the parties' submissions, and accounting for an asserted conflict of interest, the Court cannot conclude Defendants acted unreasonably or lacked substantial evidence upon which to base their respective decisions. Accordingly, the inquiry ends. This action is DISMISSED ... ."

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RICHARDSON v. METROPOLITAN DISTRICT COMMISSION was a 2003 Connecticut federal lawsuit filed by a African-American Jehovah's Witness named Tammy Richardson. Richardson alleged that her employer MDC unlawfully discriminated and retaliated against her on the basis of her race, religion, and sex. Richardson worked as a clerk in MDC's accounting department.

In September 1997, Richardson was involved in a non-work-related automobile accident that resulted in a 22% disability of her lower back. Richardson was out from work from September 20, 1997 through December 8, 1997. On several occasions between 1998 and 1999, Richardson took medical absences because of the injuries sustained in the accident. In October 1998, Richardson received an evaluation that rated her performance as unsatisfactory, based in part on her absences from work, and her annual increment was withheld. MDC placed Richardson on a six-month probationary period. All Richardson's prior evaluations were satisfactory. On March 31, 1999, Richardson left work on a medical leave of absence. On July 1, 1999, Richardson attempted to return to work, but her supervisor sent her home. On July 1, 1999, Richardson's chiropractor faxed a "Return to Work" form to MDC that explained that Richardson could return to regular duties with a few limitations: she could not lift or carry more than ten pounds; she should work half-days until further notice; and she requires chiropractic care twice a week. On July 9, 1999, when she returned from the March 31, 1999 medical leave, MDC reduced Richardson's responsibilities at work and elevated a less qualified white employee to her position. Richardson filed another "Return to Work" form on July 13, 1999 that stated she should only work part-time until July 23, 1999. On July 23, 1999, Richardson attended a Jehovah's Witness Convention. Richardson had requested the day off in March, and the supervisor approved the use of vacation time. On the day before the convention, the supervisor informed Richardson that he revoked his approval. When Richardson returned to work on July 26, 1999, MDC suspended her for two days without pay for her absence on July 23 and part-time attendance from July 12 through July 21. On August 6, 1999, Richardson filed a complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. Because of her medical absences, Richardson's six-month probationary period extended until August 1999. On August 30, 1999, MDC reviewed Richardson's performance and concluded that it continued to be unsatisfactory. Accordingly, MDC denied Richardson a step increment. Richardson took a medical absence for injuries from the accident and job-related stress on November 3, 1999, until her voluntary resignation on December 7, 1999, to accept another position elsewhere.

Richardson thereafter filed this lawsuit for money damages and equitable relief brought pursuant Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993, and the state common law of intentional infliction of emotional distress. Richardson alleged that the Metropolitan District Commission unlawfully discriminated and retaliated against her on the basis of her race, religion, and sex. On August 7, 2002, the district court granted partial summary judgment for the defendants on some of the plaintiff's claims. However, the case went forward on the issue of discrimination and retaliation on the basis of her sex. No further info is available, but at that point, defendents likely pursued a settlement.

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SHAFFER v. CORNING were two federal lawsuits (1998 and 2001) which involved a Jehovah's Witness named Edward J. Shaffer, Jr. Shaffer was employed by Corning from 1991 through 1999. In April 1998, as a result of depression and anxiety he was placed on a company approved short-term disability leave by his treating psychologist. In October 1998, 20 days before his leave expired, Shaffer filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Corning violated his civil rights by failing to accommodate his Jehovah's Witness religious beliefs. Pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement, Shaffer remained out of work on unpaid disability leave, while at the same time retaining his seniority benefits.

In August 1999, Shaffer enrolled full-time in college. In December 2000, Shaffer's first lawsuit was summarily dismissed. In January 2001, Shaffer received notice that he was terminated effective December 27, 1999. Corning did such despite his official unpaid sick leave status due to Corning's belief that enrolling full-time in college violated the terms of the leave. This action terminated Shaffer's health coverage and other seniority benefits. Thereafter, Shaffer filed a second federal lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, this time alleging "retaliation". Corning's motion for summary judgment was denied, but trial outcome is unknown.

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HILL v. SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION was a 1998 New Hampshire federal court decision. In May 1992, while employed as a campground manager, a Jehovah's Witness, named Cheryl Hill, 29, fell from a stool on which she was sitting, and subsequently began to complain of lower-back, hip, and leg pain. She did not work after that date. Hill initially applied for disability insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income benefits in April 1993, alleging disability since 1992. After these applications were denied at the initial stage of review, she reapplied for disability insurance benefits on March 23, 1994. Hill filed a new protective application for Supplemental Security Income benefits in December 1994. This application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Hill then requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. Hearings were held on March 3, 1995, and April 18, 1995. By decision dated July 29, 1995, the ALJ denied Hill s applications for benefits at step four of the five-step sequential analysis. Although he found she suffered from a severe impairment that imposed significant limitations on her ability to work, he concluded, upon consultation with the vocational expert, that Hill remained able to perform some of her past relevant occupations.
 
Cheryl Hill requested that the Appeals Council review the 1995 ALJ decision, and submitted additional medical evidence in support of her request. On April 27, 1997, the Appeals Council denied Hill s request for review,  making the ALJ s decision the final decision of the Commissioner of Social  Security and subject to this appeal. In that denial, the Appeals Council concluded that Hill s additional evidence did not provide a basis for  questioning the ALJ s decision. Hill thereafter sought a review of the SSA's final decision in federal court. There, the USDC reversed and remanded for further consideration of Hill's subjective evidence of her ongoing pain. Outcome unknown.

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HARRIS v. SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION was a 1998 Texas federal case involving a Jehovah's Witness named Johnny Harris. Harris worked as a tree trimmer, and after a fall in 1991, he applied for disability benefits, but was repeatedly denied by SSA, which led to Harris's filing this federal lawsuit. Somewhat surprising is Harris's introduction into the case of alleged "mental" problems:

Plaintiff asserts a mental impairment which, in combination to physical impairment, renders him disabled. Plaintiff's asserted mental impairment is the result of what he characterizes as a low IQ, depression, and migraine headaches. In fact, plaintiff's motion applauds plaintiff for attaining the position of foreman despite plaintiff's IQ of 77, and his having failed 3rd grade. ... Plaintiff's IQ results in what he terms an over-simplification of more complex issues and an inability to reflect or properly analyze questions. Plaintiff claims these deficiencies were apparent during the administrative hearing and in discussions with doctors or family members. ... Such a lack of intellect, plaintiff asserts, is a disability in itself, or, at a minimum, creates a disability in light of plaintiff's physical impairments.

The USDC affirmed in part and remanded in part, with these partial remarks:

Since his release from his doctor, he mows his yard, one acre, using a riding mower, helps clean house, folds clothes, studies photography, reads, conducts Bible study with his family, and is a part-time lay preacher for the Jehovah's Witnesses. He is not paid for church work. Back in 1991 and 1992 he saw a psychiatrist for depression but stopped going because he felt he was [not] being helped and because he had a bad reaction to medication. He has never been in a hospital for a mental problem and took Prozac for only about three months. Every now and then he lifts something too heavy, such as a chair or end of a table or tree limb. He drives once per day to either preach or just to ride and helps his wife with cleaning. The evidence as a whole supports a capacity to perform light work activity but not his past work as a tree trimming working foreman. His daily work activities further supports a light work capacity. There is substantial evidence that Harris' alleged mental impairment combined with his physical impairments would not be expected to interfere with his ability to work, considering his age, education or past work experience. A careful review of the ALJ's decision reveals that he found that Harris' physical impairments left him capable of engaging in light physical work activities, and that his alleged mental impairment was non-severe and did not prevent him from performing jobs in that range. That Harris could act as a lay preacher and regularly mow his lawn and engage in domestic duties support this conclusion.

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BLANCHARD v. FEDERAL EXPRESS was a 1995 Louisiana state Worker's Compensation case involving a Jehovah's Witness named Rodney Blanchard. Blanchard injured his back while loading and unloading packages as a part-time employee of FedEx. He was treated by Dr. Charles Strange for two herniated disks and released in April 1992 for light to medium level employment on a full-time basis. The hearing officer found that after January 27, 1993, FedEx did everything within its power to help Blanchard return to the labor market, but the evidence indicates and Blanchard's own testimony established the fact that he voluntarily removed himself from the labor force, not because of any disability, but because he simply did not wish to return to full-time employment.

Blanchard testified that he was a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses, and that he had time consuming obligations as an Elder in his Kingdom Hall. He stated that he spent approximately one hour in door-to-door "canvassing" and two more hours performing other church-related duties every morning, five days a week; that he had "shepherding" duties from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays; and that he also had church obligations on Saturdays, Sundays, and sometimes on other weeknights. Plaintiff testified his job with Federal Express was part-time. He accepted and held the job because it did not conflict with his church obligations. Since the medical evidence did not support the conclusion that he continued to be totally disabled, either partially or permanently, the state court affirmed the state's discontinuance of benefits.

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MARIA A. ROSA v. FLORIDA POWER & LIGHT COMPANY was a 1988-94 Florida federal lawsuit which involved a Jehovah's Witness named Maria Rosa. Maria Rosa's deceased husband, Manuel Rosa, had been employed as a crane operator. Around 1987, Manuel managed to strike some overhead power lines that had been installed by FPL with his crane, and he was killed. Maria Rosa then proceeded to sue FPL for Manuel's "wrongful death".

In March 1993, FPL's motion to dismiss was granted by the trial court after Rosa failed to prosecute the case after February 1992. For some reason, FPL had submitted interrogatories seeking to determine how Rosa's Jehovah's Witness beliefs and practices affected her lawsuit. Rosa objected, and FPL agreed that Rosa did not have to answer. However, Rosa then moved that FPL would not be allowed to ask questions about Rosa's JW religion during the trial. The trial court did not grant this motion, and Rosa thereafter failed to prosecute the lawsuit any further. In March 1994, the appellate court reversed the dismissal of Rosa's case, and remanded for proceeding which excluded any references to Rosa's JW religion.Outcome unknown.

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IN THE MATTER OF DAVID GARCIA was a 1993 Florida court decision. In January 1993, 30 year-old mechanic David Garcia, Of Lake Worth, Florida, was severely injured when a tire he was changing exploded. The explosion ripped off one arm and did severe damage to the rest of his body, including his face, all of which required extensive skin and muscle grafts. Arriving unconscious at St. Mary's Hospital, Garcia was unable to communicate then, or afterwards due to heavy sedation. David's wife, Jane Garcia, informed the hospital that David and herself were Jehovah's Witnesses, and that blood transfusions would not be permitted. David was suffering from excessive blood loss, and would not survive without transfusions before, during, and after all the many surgeries his severe injuries would require.

David Garcia's parents and siblings, who were NOT Jehovah's Witnesses, were outraged. They immediately obtained legal counsel and petitioned the local court for guardianship and authorization to consent to all medical care necessary to save David's life.  At the hearing, during which Jane Garcia did her best to fight against blood transfusions, David's family testified that David was NOT a Jehovah's Witness, had never joined the Jehovah's Witnesses, and had told them that he only attended WatchTower meetings to keep his JW wife happy.  Doing such nearly cost David Garcia his life. The court granted Garcia's own father guardianship, with power to authorize all necessary medical care. Outcome unknown.

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IN RE BARTO TECHNICAL SERVICES was a 1995 Pennsylvania federal bankruptcy case in which certain debtors were objecting to the claim of a Jehovah's Witness named Christine Lawrence. Limited details. Christine McNeil Lawrence's deceased husband, Donald E. Lawrence Sr., 39, of Harrisburg, had reportedly been killed in an on-the-job accident at Bethlehem Steel Corporation's Steelton, Pennsylvania plant in January 1991. A subsidiary of Barto apparently had manufactured the piece of equipment involved in his death. Apparently, after collecting all available insurance, Work Comp, government benefits, etc., this JW family (sons, Donald E. Lawrence Jr., and Ryan Lawrence, and two daughters, Lauren Lawrence and Erika Lawrence) were also going after "damages" from anyone else that could be linked to the death of Donald Lawrence. Outcome unknown.

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SIMMS v. SULLIVAN was a 1989 D.C. federal appellate court decision. Roscoe C. Simms was a 40 year-old Jehovah's Witness who lived in the Washington D.C. area. Having only an 11th grade education, Simms had worked various manual labor jobs, despite having lost a hand and forearm in a "hunting accident" when he was 15 years-old. Simms also claimed that he had injured his back on-the-job in 1977. Prior to filing for "total disability" with the Social Security Administration, Simms last worked in 1984, at a Hospital, where he acted as a supervisor in various maintenance departments.

As a Jehovah's Witness, Roscoe Simms admitted that he regularly performed recruiting activities for the JWs, including visiting homes and conducting home bible studies. Yet, he applied for "total disability benefits", and SSI, by claiming that he was unable to perform any job.

Simm's claim was denied at every SSA level. A vocational expert testified that Simms had "transferable skills including supervising, record keeping, and dispatching" that enable him to do certain kinds of "other work." The expert took into account Simm's "residual functional capacity for light work activity," the amputation of his left forearm, and his "inability to write for more than 15 minutes" with his right arm. With these limitations in mind, the expert offered several examples of work that Simms could perform: "service station manager, auto station attendant (without repairs), auto rental clerk, dispatcher of motor vehicles and security guard dispatcher." Even if limited only to "sedentary exertion," the expert said, Simms "would still be able to perform the work as an auto rental clerk and dispatcher." Thereafter, Roscoe Simms filed this federal lawsuit. The USDC granted the SSA's motion for summary judgment. On appeal, the USCA reversed and remanded with direction for the court to more fully develop the record as to Simm's disabilities and available occupations, if any.

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KNIGHT v. ATLANTIC MARINE INC. ET AL was or maybe still is a 2003-5 Florida worker's compensation case under the federal Longshore Act and the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Labor.  This case involves a Jehovah's Witness named Casper A. Knight, who was employed as a shipfitter in Jacksonville, Florida. On May 8, 1995, Casper Knight was working aboard a ship then under construction, when he fell off a ladder striking his left knee against a bulkhead. Between 1995 and 2003, Knight's medical expenses and "temporary-totally disability" benefits amounted to nearly $1,000,000.00 paid by the Employer's insurance company. The Insurer suspended benefits from September 20, 2001, to January 4, 2002 (not sure why for only that brief period). In this 2003 lawsuit, Knight sought compensation and other benefits for when benefits were suspended, plus Knight also demanded various other benefits including, new or modified living quarters, 32 hours of home attendant care per week, and an in-home jacuzzi spa. Knight also claimed that his disability status should be downgraded to "permanent-total disability", effective February 23, 1998.

The Employer's Insurer contended that Knight's benefits had been suspended because Knight failed to cooperate with an IME it wanted him to attend at the Cleveland Clinic, which was the premier pain clinic in the U.S.  The Insurer denied that Knight needed the additional benefits which he was then seeking. In addition, Employer contended that Knight had failed to follow the recommendations of the health professionals who had been treating him. The Employer argued that it had approved the physicians and treatments that Knight had selected, "but after six years and nearly a million dollars in medical benefits, Knight was worse off in 2003, than he was several years ago." His then current treatment provided only temporary relief, and the prognosis of his physicians anticipated no improvement. The Employer argued that the care Knight was then presently receiving was not in his best interest, and it cited a body of medical evidence in the record indicating that Knight needed a multi-disciplinary pain management approach to his care, which was formulated by a team of health professionals who are expert in treating CRPS. The Employer therefore sought an order authorizing changes in the care and treatment regime Knight was receiving.  Employer also interposed a defense under Section 8(f) of the Longshore Act in the event Knight was found permanently and totally disabled.

In 2003, the ALJ ruled that Knight would receive reimbusement for all expenses and benefits for the period that the Insurer had suspended such, plus some other incident treatments/benefits were to be provided by the Insurer. However, per Insurer's request, the ALJ ordered Knight to be admitted to the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, in order to be examined, evaluated, and treated by a Dr. Michael Stanton-Hicks.  Stanton-Hicks was a professor and head of pain services at the Cleveland Clinic, and was one of the world's most renowned experts and prolific writers on RSD. The ALJ ordered that after such examination that the Insurer would not have to pay for any treatments, medications, etc. which were not prescribed by Dr. Hicks. Knight was evaluated by the Cleveland Clinic in June 2003. Stanton-Hicks diagnosed derangement of the left knee, with "questionable symptoms of superimposed CRPS", and recommended a course of treatments which could be prescribed by Dr. Green back in Florida. Neither Knight nor Green agreed with everything Stanton-Hicks recommended, and apparently, additional treatments were followed, which the Insurer refused to reimburse per the 2003 ALJ Order. Those additional expenses were the subject of a second (or possibly more) ALJ hearing in 2005, which for the most part ruled in the Insurer's favor.

The following Excerpt from 2003 ALJ Order should be very educational for employers, insurers, physicians, etc, because it demonstrates many Jehovah's Witness' attitude about mental health professionals. (The WatchTower Society had a history of doing everything it could, short of excommunication, from dissuading JWs from seeking the help of the mental health industry. It has been only within the past couple decades that JWs could seek the help of mental health professionals without being ostracized or even shunned by their fellow JWs. Why the change? Necessity. Depending on the type of mental illness involved, some studies have shown that Jehovah's Witnesses have higher incidents of illness than does the general population -- ranging from 150% to 300% for various types of mental illnesses.)

Psychological Evaluation

Now, one aspect of the pain clinic model which is likely to cause some difficulty, as this record demonstrates rather clearly, is the consideration of the factors which may involve the services of a psychologist. Drs. Hardy, Koslowski, Tandron, Rowe, Pulley, Eichberg, and Barsa all believed that Knight would benefit from a pain management team approach including a psychological component, and Dr. Hooshmand indicated that he would have no objection to an evaluation of any potential psychological aspects of Claimant's condition. Yet, Knight remains adamantly resistant to the notion that there may be a psychiatric or psychological component to his present condition, and except to the extent discussed below, his objections are unreasonable.

Thus, Knight was asked at the hearing whether he would willingly undergo psychological evaluation and treatment. He testified;


"No, because I grew up, my uncle is a psychologist and I'm well experienced. I studied psychology all through school and I'm quite familiar with it and I have, you know, an understanding of what it's based on. And a lot of it is not based on science. It's not based on fact. That's why a psychologist can not prescribe medicine. Only a psychiatrist can. And it's like some of the things that Dr. Willmer or Wittmer said I totally disagree with. His attitude was that if I came from a, I'll use the term dysfunctional family, then I'm potentially going to be a dysfunctional person the rest of my life, no matter what, no matter what I want to be. That's like saying that once somebody, you know, shows any personal character flaw at all, it can never change, that they can never be a better person, even if they desire to. Well, that's just silly.

And my bible based education [JW buzz phrase referring to the "education" that the WatchTower Society provides Jehovah's Witnesses via its' literature and "meetings".] tells me that there's much more value in other types of therapy. And no doctor has recommended that for me."

Although several doctors have recommended a team approach to his problem, including the involvement of a psychologist, Knight, based upon his high school study of psychology, seemed inclined to self-diagnose his condition and report:

"I don't see any need for that because there's no problems that are based in that area, you know... ."

Other experts are not so sure.

I am mindful that Knight also suggested that, as a Jehovah's Witness, he had religious beliefs which conflicted with certain aspects of psychological or psychiatric treatment and stated that OWCP advised him that if his "beliefs disagree with that, you don't have to submit to the treatment..." Knight explained that some forms of psychiatric and psychological care "violate his religious beliefs."

As previously recognized, however, to the extent that a particular aspect of mental health evaluation, counseling, or treatment is inconsistent with the religious convictions of the Jehovah's Witnesses, Knight reasonably may refuse to cooperate or participate in that specific aspect of the examination or treatment modality. Any such refusal, however, must be grounded, in good faith, upon the tenets of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Beyond that, Knight's general objections to the involvement of a psychologist or other mental health professional in his evaluation, care, or treatment, based upon his high school studies or his personal misunderstandings about the science and theories of psychology or his belief that "there are no problems in this area," are not reasonable and do not justify a refusal to cooperate. ... ...

Footnote 23. The record shows, for example, that Knight was reluctant to, and in fact did not, meet with Rick Robinson, the vocational expert, in part because he thought that Robinson was a mental health counselor. Knight testified:

"... the letter he sent to me had one, I think one set of initials next to his name, you know, like a credential abbreviation, but the letters he sent to my doctors that he referenced today, he sent them some questionnaires, he had like six abbreviations of credentials, including one that said, I think it's LMHC, which is supposed to stand for licensed mental health counselor and that was a concern because I didn't really agree with that type of counsel and I wasn't sure if that's what I was being sent there for because they had misrepresented to me a couple of times... ."

The following excerpt is from the section of the 2003 ALJ Order directing Knight to be admitted to the Cleveland Clinic. No surrounding explanation was given in the ALJ Order, but readers should first read the PEDROZA v. CINTAS CORP, GROESSLER v. CINEMARK USA, and the "Gregory West" summaries all posted on the Miscellaneous Lawsuits I page.

"For purposes of this visit, Claimant will not be authorized to tape record, either audio or video, any aspect of his evaluation, care, or treatment at the Clinic unless such recording is consistent with Clinic policies applicable to other patients. Further, if Claimant wishes to travel with a companion, he may do so at his own expense; however, a visitor or companion may accompany Claimant to any evaluation, examination, or treatment session at the Clinic only to the extent that the presence of a third party is consistent with Clinic policy applicable under similar circumstances to other patients."

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