207 F.3d 144 (2nd Cir. 2000), 99-6011, EEO Comm'n v Staten Island Savings Bank

Docket Nº:Docket Nos. 99-6011, 99-6035
Citation:207 F.3d 144
Party Name:EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. STATEN ISLAND SAVINGS BANK, Defendant-Appellee, and GUARDIAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant. EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. THE CHASE MANHATTAN BANK, Defendant-Appellee, and UNUM LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, Defendant.
Case Date:March 23, 2000
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
 
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Page 144

207 F.3d 144 (2nd Cir. 2000)

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

STATEN ISLAND SAVINGS BANK, Defendant-Appellee,

and

GUARDIAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

THE CHASE MANHATTAN BANK, Defendant-Appellee,

and

UNUM LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, Defendant.

Docket Nos. 99-6011, 99-6035

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

March 23, 2000

        Argued: October 28, 1999

        Appeal from judgments of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Reena Raggi, Judge) and the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Whitman Knapp, Judge) dismissing under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) the respective complaints of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on the sole ground that Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111­12117, does not forbid employers from offering long-term disability benefit plans that provide less coverage for mental and emotional disabilities than for physical disabilities.

        Affirmed.

Page 145

        BARBARA L. SLOAN, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Washington, DC (C. Gregory Stewart, General Counsel, Philip B. Sklover, Associate General Counsel, Vincent J. Blackwood, Assistant General Counsel, and Jodi B. Danis, on the brief), for Plaintiff-Appellant.

        ROGER H. BRITON, Jackson, Lewis, Schnitzler & Krupman, Woodbury, NY (Christopher G. Bell, Jackson, Lewis, Schnitzler & Krupman, Minneapolis, MN, on the brief), for Defendant-Appellee Staten Island Savings Bank.

        MERYL R. KAYNARD, Chase Manhattan Legal Department, New York, NY (Matthew G. Leonard, on the brief), for Defendant-Appellee The Chase Manhattan Bank.

        Gregory G. Katsas and Gregory A. Castanias, Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue, Washington, DC, and Phillip E. Stano and Terri Sorota, The American Council of Life Insurance, Washington, DC, submitted a brief for Amicus Curiae The American Council of Life Insurance.

        Ann Elizabeth Reesman and Corrie L. Fischel, McGuiness & Williams, Washington, DC, and Stephen A. Bokat, Robin S. Conrad and Sussan Mahallati Kysela, National Chamber Litigation Center, Inc., Washington, DC, submitted two joint briefs for Amici Curiae Equal Employment Advisory Counsel and Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America.

        Before: FEINBERG, CARDAMONE, and SACK, Circuit Judges.

        SACK, Circuit Judge:

        The issue raised in these appeals is whether, under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, an employer may lawfully offer more generous disability benefits for physical disabilities than for mental and emotional disabilities. We add our voice to a chorus of other United States Courts of Appeals that have ruled that such disparate treatment is not forbidden by the Act.

        Plaintiff the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the "EEOC") appeals from the separate judgments of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Reena Raggi, Judge) and the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Whitman Knapp, Judge) dismissing under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) the EEOC's respective complaints against defendants The Chase Manhattan Bank ("Chase") and Staten Island Savings Bank ("SISB") for failure to state a claim. The EEOC alleged that the long­term disability plans offered by Chase's predecessor corporation and SISB to their employees violated Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the "ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111­12117, by providing less coverage for mental and emotional disabilities than for physical disabilities. In each case the district court dismissed the EEOC's complaint on the sole ground that Title I of the ADA does not prevent an employer from offering a long-term disability plan that provides different benefits for different disabilities.

Page 146

        Although the cases were brought and the motions to dismiss were heard and decided entirely separately, we heard them and now decide them together because the EEOC raises essentially the same issues in each appeal. We agree with the results reached by both district courts and affirm for the reasons set forth below.

        BACKGROUND

        I. EEOC v. Staten Island Savings Bank

        The complaint against SISB in this action was brought by the EEOC on behalf of a named former SISB employee and other similarly situated persons. The SISB employee was enrolled in an employee disability benefit plan offered by SISB and administered by Guardian Life Insurance Company ("Guardian"). According to the plan:

        "Disability" means: (a) an employee is not able to perform all of the material duties of his regular occupation on a full-time basis due to sickness or injury; and (b) the employee's current monthly earnings, if any, are, solely due to his disability, less than 80% of his indexed prior monthly earnings. While an employee is so disabled, he can engage in: (i) any other suitable occupation full or part-time; (ii) some but not all of the material duties of his regular occupation full or part-time; or (iii) all of the material duties of his regular occupation part-time.

        On August 22, 1991, the complainant became unable to work because of a panic disorder with obsessive-compulsive symptoms. In March 1992, Guardian determined that the complainant was disabled within the meaning of the SISB plan and eligible for benefits effective March 22, 1992.

        The SISB plan provided set monthly payments calculated on the basis of an employee's prior monthly earnings rather than the costs of the disability. Benefits were generally available under the plan for any disability starting before an employee reached the age of sixty until the Social Security Normal Retirement Age, however long that period might be. Disability benefits for "mental or emotional conditions," however, were in most cases available for no more than two years. On April 1, 1994, Guardian wrote a letter to the complainant stating that, pursuant to the two-year limitation, her benefits had been terminated as of March 21, 1994.

        On September 8, 1997, the EEOC filed its complaint against SISB and Guardian in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, alleging that the SISB plan discriminates on the basis of mental disability in violation of Title I of the ADA. SISB and Guardian filed separate motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). They argued, inter alia, that Title I of the ADA does not forbid long-term disability benefit plans from providing different benefits for different disabilities.1 The district court dismissed the complaint on the sole ground that Title I of the ADA permits long-term disability benefit plans to provide varying levels of coverage for mental and physical disabilities.

        The EEOC has appealed only from the dismissal of its claims against SISB.

        II. EEOC v. Chase Manhattan Bank

        The complaint against Chase was brought by the EEOC on behalf of another complainant and "at least 27 other similarly situated individuals." This complainant was an employee of Chemical Bank, which later merged with Chase. Chase does not dispute its legal responsibility for the acts

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of Chemical Bank that were the subject of the complaint. On May 11, 1993, the complainant became unable to work because of major depression and anxiety. On November 9, 1993, she applied for long-term disability benefits under her employer's long-term disability plan, which was administered by Unum Life Insurance Company of America ("Unum"). Unum determined that the complainant was disabled within the meaning of the plan, and granted her benefits beginning December 1, 1993. As with the SISB plan, the benefits took the form of monthly payments calculated on the basis of an employee's prior monthly compensation and did not bear a relationship to the costs of the disability.

        The plan provided benefits to employees absent from work because of "Temporary Disability" as well as "Total and Permanent Disability." According to the plan:

        "Total and Permanent Disability" or "Totally and Permanently Disabled" means any medically determinable physical or mental impairment that can be expected to result in death or that can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months which disability renders the Participant unable to physically perform the duties of the position for which employed by a Participating Company or the duties of any other substantial gainful activity . . . .

         "Temporary Disability" or "Temporarily Disabled" means any medically determinable physical or mental impairment that is expected to last for a continuous period of more than 27 consecutive weeks which disability renders the Participant unable to physically perform the duties of the position for which employed by a Participating Company: provided that such impairment is not expected to result in the Participant being deemed to have a Total and Permanent Disability . . . .

        Disability benefits were generally available under the plan for any "Total and Permanent Disability" occurring at age sixty or less until the attainment of age sixty­five. The plan provided, however, that benefits for a disability caused by "a mental disease or disorder" would last for no more than eighteen months.2 The complainant's long-term disability benefits were terminated on May 31, 1995 because of the eighteen-month limitation on mental disability benefits.

        On September 8, 1997, the same day that the EEOC filed suit against SISB and Guardian in the United States District Court for the...

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