Paul Cronan and New England Telephone Company Case Analysis

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Paul Cronan and New England Telephone Company Case Analysis

Legal Case Analysis


? Paul Cronan was a long-term New England Telephone Company (NET) employee (1973 - 1986), assigned at South Boston.

? Paul was diagnosed with AIDS Related Complex (ARC) in 1985.

? Paul informed his supervisor about ARC when asked about his third request to leave work for a medical appointment (1985).

? Paul had a poor attendance history. His tardiness and medical appointments concerned his supervision.

? Paul was granted NET sickness benefits in June 1985.

? Disparaging comments about Paul and AIDS were observed in NET restrooms (summer 1985).

? Paul obtained medical permission to return to work with NET, but his requests for transfer way from the South Boston dispatch center were not processed by his new supervisor (August 1885).

? NET issues new AIDS policy (September 1985).

? Paul is hospitalized (September 1985), and receives a memo from NET offering to return him to his previous position with reasonable accommodation for limitations.

? Paul files suit against NET for ?privacy law violations? and ?discrimination? using Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts (December 1985).

? NET tried to move the case to Federal court and failed (January 1986). The court determined that neither federal law nor union contracts preempted Massachusetts state laws on discrimination and privacy.

? NET informs Paul his illness benefits have run out and place him on long-term disability (June 1986).

? Paul and NET settle out of court, including allowing Paul to return to work at Needham facility (October 1886).

? AIDS awareness training provided to NET personnel at Needham by medical AIDS specialists before Paul comes back to work (October 1986).

? On Paul?s first day back at NET Needham, he finds a hostile work environment and IBEW Local 2222 workers file a grievance over safety concerns related to exposure to AIDS (October 1986).

? On Paul?s second day back to work, 29 of 39 employees refused to enter the NET Needham facility and walked off the job. Several of these employees made statements regarding their fear AIDS and discomfort around Cronan (October 1986).

Critical Legal Issues:

? Was Paul Cronan discriminated against on the basis of a handicap, AIDS?

? Was AIDS/ARC a handicap?

? ...

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... a large sum of money to go away (the easy way out).

? NET could have accommodated Paul immediately and used his services doing something that prevented or limited his contact with employees or other people. This may have been a breech of union contract.

Judgement and Rationale:

? Once errors were made and the damage was done, NET was best served by taking the actions they did in settling out of court with Paul Cronan. This minimized the extent of financial loss, and prevented further tarnishing their corporate image. In this case it was NETs responsibility to do the right thing from the beginning.

? NET would have lost the legal battle in court. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 19732 clearly prohibits discrimination in employment against qualified individuals with a disability. Like the ADA, a qualified individual with a disability is a person who: (1) has a physical or mental impairment which ?substantially limits? one or more major life activities, (2) has a record of such impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment. In this case the court would likely have determined that AIDS and the perception of AIDS qualified it as a disability.

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