Hensley v. Punta Gorda, No. 96-358

CourtCourt of Appeal of Florida (US)
Writing for the CourtKAHN
Citation686 So.2d 724
Docket NumberNo. 96-358
Decision Date06 January 1997
Parties22 Fla. L. Weekly D159, 20 A.D.D. 126, 9 NDLR P 102 Judy HENSLEY, Appellant, v. PUNTA GORDA and Gallagher Bassett Service, Appellees.

Page 724

686 So.2d 724
22 Fla. L. Weekly D159, 20 A.D.D. 126, 9 NDLR P 102
Judy HENSLEY, Appellant,
v.
PUNTA GORDA and Gallagher Bassett Service, Appellees.
No. 96-358.
District Court of Appeal of Florida,
First District.
Jan. 6, 1997.

Page 725

Alex Lancaster and Amy L. Sergent of Lancaster & Eure, Sarasota, for Appellant.

Gerald W. Pierce of Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt, P.A., Ft. Myers, for Appellees.

KAHN, Judge.

Judy Hensley, appellant and claimant in this workers' compensation matter, asks us to rule that section 440.02(1) Florida Statutes (Supp.1994), does not comport with the requirements of Title I of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111--12117. 1 We conclude, however, that Hensley has failed to demonstrate her entitlement to the protection of the ADA. Moreover, she has failed to demonstrate that section 440.02(1) is inconsistent with, and therefore preempted by, the ADA. Accordingly, we affirm the order of the Judge of Compensation Claims which denied compensability for Hensley's psychiatric injury.

For purposes of this appeal, the pertinent provision of section 440.02(1), Florida Statutes (Supp.1994) provides:

A mental or nervous injury due to stress, fright, or excitement ... is not an injury by accident arising out of the employment.

Hensley contends that she was exposed to recurring sexual harassment and hostility in her work environment as an administrative secretary for the City of Punta Gorda Public Works Department. She brought a workers' compensation claim seeking temporary total or temporary partial disability benefits from September 1994 and continuing. Hensley and the City stipulated that Hensley developed a psychiatric injury as a result of her work environment. The parties further stipulated that Hensley did not sustain a physical injury resulting in her psychiatric condition. At the hearing below held on November 27, 1995, the only issue presented was whether claimant's psychiatric condition was compensable under the Florida Workers' Compensation Law. Relying upon section 440.02(1), Florida Statutes, and City of Holmes Beach v. Grace, 598 So.2d 71 (Fla.1992), the judge of compensation claims ruled that Hensley's psychiatric condition is not compensable. 2

As an administrative officer vested with only certain limited quasi-judicial powers, a judge of compensation claims does not have jurisdiction to declare a portion of the Florida Workers' Compensation Act unconstitutional or violative of a federal statute. Sasso v. Ram Property Management, 431 So.2d 204, 207-208 (Fla. 1st DCA 1983), approved 452 So.2d 932 (Fla.1984). Accordingly, this court has jurisdiction to consider such claims in the first instance. Id. Nonetheless, in cases such as the present one, the record must clearly indicate the appellant's standing to raise the issue of the unconstitutionality or invalidity of a specific section of the law. Id. This rule is all the more valid in a case such as the one now before us where appellant is asserting her rights under the ADA, rather than making a facial constitutional challenge to a portion of the Florida Workers' Compensation Law. This is so because the ADA requires individualized determinations

Page 726

of entitlement. See 42 U.S.C.A. § 12102(2)(A); Homeyer v. Stanley Tulchin Associates, Inc., 91 F.3d 959 (7th Cir.1996).

I. "Qualified Individual with a Disability"

The operative portion of the ADA, 42 U.S.C., section 12112(a), provides:

No covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability because of the disability of such individual in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. 3

The Florida Supreme Court has recently explained that this portion of the ADA is "sufficiently broad to encompass the entitlement to workers' compensation benefits." Barry v. Burdines, 675 So.2d 587, 589 (Fla.1996).

One seeking relief under the employment provisions of the ADA (Title I) must demonstrate that she is a "qualified individual with a disability" and has been discriminated against because of the disability. Cramer v. Florida, 885 F.Supp. 1545 (M.D.Fla.1995); Cheatwood v. Roanoke Industries, 891 F.Supp. 1528 (N.D.Ala.1985); Mears v. Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., 905 F.Supp. 1075 (S.D.Ga.1995), aff'd, 87 F.3d 1331 (11th Cir.1996). A "qualified individual with a disability" is "an individual with a disability who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the employment position that such individual holds or desires." 42 U.S.C. § 12111(8). The term "essential functions" means the fundamental job duties of the employment position. 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(n)(1). Consideration must be given to the employer's judgment of what functions of a job are essential. 42 U.S.C. § 12111(8); Cheatwood.

Significantly for the present case, the provisions concerning "qualified individual with a disability" contain no reference to an individual's future ability to perform the essential functions of a job position; rather, they are formulated entirely in the present tense. Cheatwood. If an ADA claimant cannot perform the essential functions of the job, such claimant is not entitled to the protection of the ADA. In Mears, the court held that where a plaintiff states that she cannot go back to a job site and her presence at the job site is "essential" to performing her job, she is not "qualified" to perform the essential functions of her job and may not bring an action for discrimination under the ADA. See also, Dockery v. North Shore Medical Center, 909 F.Supp. 1550 (S.D.Fla.1995); Smith v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of...

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10 practice notes
  • Breen v. CARLSBAD MUN. SCHOOLS, No. 22
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • February 12, 2003
    ...(finding that ADA does not require Florida Workers' Compensation Act to provide equal eligibility in benefits); Hensley v. Punta Gorda, 686 So.2d 724, 728 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.1997) (finding no inconsistency between the goals of the ADA and Florida's Workers' Compensation Act); Bailey v. Reynol......
  • Castellanos v. Next Door Co., No. 1D12–3639.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • October 23, 2013
    ...clearly does not have jurisdiction to declare a state statute unconstitutional or violative of federal law.”); Hensley v. Punta Gorda, 686 So.2d 724, 725 (Fla. 1st DCA 1997) (“As an administrative officer vested with only certain limited quasi-judicial powers, a judge of compensation claims......
  • Harrell v. FLA. CONST. SPECIALISTS/AARLA/AGENT FOR FWCIGA, No. 1D01-3512
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • January 8, 2003
    ...The JCCs properly found that they lacked jurisdiction to determine whether the statutes are unconstitutional. Hensley v. Punta Gorda, 686 So.2d 724, 725 (Fla. 1st DCA 1997) ("As an administrative officer vested with only certain limited quasi-judicial powers, a judge of compensation cl......
  • Mecca v. Sch. Bd. of Broward Cnty., Case No. 12-60828-CIV-COHN/ROSENBAUM
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Southern District of Florida
    • July 9, 2012
    ...of duty or because of illness from any contagious or infectious disease contracted at work."). Similar to Hensley v. Punta Gorda, 686 So. 2d 724, 727 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1997), where the court rejected the plaintiff's attempt to recover benefits for a psychiatric illness under Florida......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
10 cases
  • Breen v. CARLSBAD MUN. SCHOOLS, No. 22
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • February 12, 2003
    ...(finding that ADA does not require Florida Workers' Compensation Act to provide equal eligibility in benefits); Hensley v. Punta Gorda, 686 So.2d 724, 728 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.1997) (finding no inconsistency between the goals of the ADA and Florida's Workers' Compensation Act); Bailey v. Reynol......
  • Castellanos v. Next Door Co., No. 1D12–3639.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • October 23, 2013
    ...clearly does not have jurisdiction to declare a state statute unconstitutional or violative of federal law.”); Hensley v. Punta Gorda, 686 So.2d 724, 725 (Fla. 1st DCA 1997) (“As an administrative officer vested with only certain limited quasi-judicial powers, a judge of compensation claims......
  • Harrell v. FLA. CONST. SPECIALISTS/AARLA/AGENT FOR FWCIGA, No. 1D01-3512
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • January 8, 2003
    ...The JCCs properly found that they lacked jurisdiction to determine whether the statutes are unconstitutional. Hensley v. Punta Gorda, 686 So.2d 724, 725 (Fla. 1st DCA 1997) ("As an administrative officer vested with only certain limited quasi-judicial powers, a judge of compensation claims ......
  • Ariston v. Allied Building Crafts, No. 1D01-1208.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • July 1, 2002
    ...A JCC clearly does not have jurisdiction to declare a state statute unconstitutional or violative of federal law. Hensley v. Punta Gorda, 686 So.2d 724 (Fla. 1st DCA Finally, the constitutional arguments raised before us as to the validity of section 440.211 have previously been decided adv......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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