967 F.2d 794 (2nd Cir. 1992), 1310, Guice-Mills v. Derwinski

Docket Nº1310, Docket 91-6301.
Citation967 F.2d 794
Party NameConstance GUICE-MILLS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Edward J. DERWINSKI, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Defendant-Appellee.
Case DateJune 24, 1992
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

Page 794

967 F.2d 794 (2nd Cir. 1992)

Constance GUICE-MILLS, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Edward J. DERWINSKI, Secretary of the Department of Veterans

Affairs, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 1310, Docket 91-6301.

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

June 24, 1992

Argued April 7, 1992.

Page 795

J. Owen Zurhellen, III, Zurhellen & La Rue, New York City, for plaintiff-appellant.

Victor Omari Olds, Asst. U.S. Atty. (Otto G. Obermaier, U.S. Atty., S.D.N.Y., Thomas A. Zaccaro, Asst. U.S. Atty., New York City, of counsel), for defendant-appellee.

Before FEINBERG, WINTER and ALTIMARI, Circuit Judges.

WINTER, Circuit Judge:

Constance Guice-Mills appeals from an adverse decision after a three-day bench trial before Judge Bernard Newman. [*] He held that she had not been the subject of handicap discrimination by the Veterans Administration Hospital at Montrose, New York. We agree with Judge Newman that Guice-Mills' medical condition rendered her not "otherwise qualified" to satisfy the justified requirements for a head nurse position. Moreover, the hospital's offer to reassign her to the position of staff nurse for a shift compatible with her medical condition and at no decrease in grade, salary or benefits constituted a "reasonable accommodation" within the meaning of regulations promulgated pursuant to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. We therefore affirm.

BACKGROUND

Guice-Mills began work at the Veterans Administration Franklin Delano Roosevelt Hospital, Montrose, New York, in February 1980. Approximately one month later, she assumed the position of head nurse, which she held until her retirement on a disability pension in April 1986. There was testimony at trial, credited by Judge Newman, that head nurses need to work an "administrative tour of duty" of either a 7:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m. shift or 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. shift. Head nurses are the only management--nonunion--employees in patient-care units. They must participate in major administrative activities concerning their unit, including meetings near the beginning of their shift. They must also review and modify the care and treatment of patients often after consultation with the night supervisor. Accordingly, the hospital's standard requirement is that a head nurse be

Page 796

present and fulfill the prescribed tasks during the designated administrative shift. It was also established that head nurses have worked different shifts from those above or covered more than one unit in the absence of a head nurse. However, as a matter of ordinary practice, head nurses were expected to comply with the designated schedules.

During her term as head nurse, Guice-Mills suffered from a number of maladies, among them depression, severe anxiety, insomnia and migraine headaches. She attributed these to job-related stress. In 1984, she had a major depressive episode. At that time, her physician recommended a two-month leave of absence from her job. As part of her treatment, Guice-Mills also commenced antidepressant drug therapy and, upon the recommendation of a psychiatrist, began to take sedatives. After the leave of absence, appellant returned to her job, but her depression recurred.

Upon her physician's recommendation, Guice-Mills took an extended leave of absence from February until September 1985. Returning, she again experienced depression-related symptoms, among them insomnia, extreme fatigue, lassitude, physical deterioration, significant weight gain, difficulty in concentrating, loss of interest in ordinary activities, sleeping disturbances, inability to get out of bed in the morning, and other symptoms. At that time she came under the care of a Dr. Barnes. Among other medications, Dr. Barnes prescribed Desyrel, a sedating antidepressant intended to relieve stress and induce sleep.

After beginning to take Desyrel, Guice-Mills found it nearly impossible to get out of bed in the morning and usually arrived for her 8:00 a.m. shift after 10:00 a.m. Her supervisors repeatedly instructed her to arrive by 8:00 a.m., but she regularly failed to do so.

On or about September 19, 1985, Guice-Mills asked that she be allowed to work a later block of hours, specifically 10:00 a.m.-6:30 p.m. At that time she submitted a letter from Dr. Barnes stating that she was under care for extreme stress and needed to work a later shift, beginning at or after 10:00 a.m. The letter did not mention appellant's depressive illness, her treatment or medication program, or her prognosis. Nor did it explain the significance of the 10:00 a.m. starting time.

On September 23, Dr. Richard Donn, Chief of Staff of the hospital, wrote to Dr. Barnes seeking information concerning appellant's illness, treatment plan and prognosis. Guice-Mills refused to allow Dr. Barnes to release any information. On September 24, appellant's request for a changed tour of duty was denied, and she was directed to work the 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. tour of duty. On October 8, 1985, appellant submitted an application to the hospital for disability retirement. This application was approved in April 1986.

On October 22, 1985, while her application for retirement was still pending, appellant filed a complaint with the Equal Employment...

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44 practice notes
  • 22 F.3d 277 (11th Cir. 1994), 93-6375, Jackson v. Veterans Admin.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
    • June 6, 1994
    ...else. Such a requirement would place an undue hardship on the agency. See Guice-Mills v. Derwinski, 772 F.Supp. 188 (S.D.N.Y.1991), aff'd, 967 F.2d 794 (2d Cir.1992) (where nurse's attendance required, VA under no duty to accommodate unorthodox work schedule). In terms of what would be cons......
  • 981 F.2d 576 (1st Cir. 1992), 91-2329, August v. Offices Unlimited, Inc.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
    • December 11, 1992
    ...have found no duty to accommodate handicapped employees by modifying the job schedule or description. See, e.g., Guice-Mills v. Derwinski, 967 F.2d 794, 797-98 (2d Cir.1992) (holding that a nurse whose depression and sedating medication forced her to report to work two hours late was not &q......
  • 76 Mass.App.Ct. 586 (2010), 08-P-1365, Tompson v. Department of Mental Health
    • United States
    • Massachusetts Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • April 12, 2010
    ...to people whose disabilities prevented them from safely and reliably taking care of themselves. See, e.g., Guice-Mills v. Derwinski, 967 F.2d 794, 796, 798 (2d Cir.1992) (supervisor who was physically disabled from getting to hospital by beginning of shift she was assigned to supervise was ......
  • 44 F.3d 538 (7th Cir. 1995), 94-1884, Vande Zande v. State of Wis. Dept. of Admin.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
    • January 5, 1995
    ...hence never missed, is, we hold, reasonable as a matter of law. See 29 C.F.R. pt. 1630 app., Sec. 1630.2(o); Guice-Mills v. Derwinski, 967 F.2d 794, 798 (2d Cir.1992); cf. Alexander v. Choate, 469 U.S. 287, 302, 105 S.Ct. 712, 720-21, 83 L.Ed.2d 661 Vande Zande complains that she was reclas......
  • Free signup to view additional results
44 cases
  • 22 F.3d 277 (11th Cir. 1994), 93-6375, Jackson v. Veterans Admin.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
    • June 6, 1994
    ...else. Such a requirement would place an undue hardship on the agency. See Guice-Mills v. Derwinski, 772 F.Supp. 188 (S.D.N.Y.1991), aff'd, 967 F.2d 794 (2d Cir.1992) (where nurse's attendance required, VA under no duty to accommodate unorthodox work schedule). In terms of what would be cons......
  • 981 F.2d 576 (1st Cir. 1992), 91-2329, August v. Offices Unlimited, Inc.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
    • December 11, 1992
    ...have found no duty to accommodate handicapped employees by modifying the job schedule or description. See, e.g., Guice-Mills v. Derwinski, 967 F.2d 794, 797-98 (2d Cir.1992) (holding that a nurse whose depression and sedating medication forced her to report to work two hours late was not &q......
  • 76 Mass.App.Ct. 586 (2010), 08-P-1365, Tompson v. Department of Mental Health
    • United States
    • Massachusetts Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • April 12, 2010
    ...to people whose disabilities prevented them from safely and reliably taking care of themselves. See, e.g., Guice-Mills v. Derwinski, 967 F.2d 794, 796, 798 (2d Cir.1992) (supervisor who was physically disabled from getting to hospital by beginning of shift she was assigned to supervise was ......
  • 44 F.3d 538 (7th Cir. 1995), 94-1884, Vande Zande v. State of Wis. Dept. of Admin.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
    • January 5, 1995
    ...hence never missed, is, we hold, reasonable as a matter of law. See 29 C.F.R. pt. 1630 app., Sec. 1630.2(o); Guice-Mills v. Derwinski, 967 F.2d 794, 798 (2d Cir.1992); cf. Alexander v. Choate, 469 U.S. 287, 302, 105 S.Ct. 712, 720-21, 83 L.Ed.2d 661 Vande Zande complains that she was reclas......
  • Free signup to view additional results