McLaurin v. General Nutrition Centers, Inc., N.J. Super. App. Div. (per curiam) (unpublished),
Docket No. A-1637-15T4
Decided May 25, 2017
In a recent Appellate Court case, the Court held that a plaintiff/appellant's doctor's note, with no affidavit or testimony properly authenticating it, violates Rule 1:6-6 and cannot be relied upon to establish a disability under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD). Furthermore, such evidence cannot be used to defeat summary judgment. The case is significant, as it raises the bar for a plaintiff's level of proof in disability discrimination cases. It also affirms a plaintiff's obligation to communicate his or her disability to an employer, as well as the duty to request a specific accommodation in order to make a successful failure-to-accommodate claim.
In this employment matter, plaintiff/appellant asserted claims against defendant/respondent under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination for failure to accommodate, wrongful termination, failure to engage in the interactive process, and retaliation. Plaintiff/appellant alleged he had requested a one-month medical leave for treatment of a knee injury, but was terminated because of his temporary disabilities and/or because of his request and need for temporary leave to seek treatment of these disabilities. On appeal, the Court affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment and further found that plaintiff/appellant was unable to establish that he was disabled under the LAD. Plaintiff/appellant provided his doctor’s office notes; however, such documents with no affidavit or testimony properly authenticating them did not constitute compliance with Rule 1:6-6. This doctor's note was not supported by any additional medical records and was produced for the first time in opposition to defendant/respondent's summary judgment motion. Further, the Appellate Court found plaintiff/appellant admitted he never affirmatively communicated to respondent he had a disability or requested any specific accommodation. As such, the court affirmed summary judgment for defendant/respondent.