Svarnas v. AT&T Communications, et al.

The Plaintiff, a telephone operator, was terminated from her employment with the Defendant AT&T Communications after 22 years of service for “excessive absenteeism.”  She filed a lawsuit claiming that the company used her absenteeism as a pretext for its unwillingness to accommodate her part-time work schedule and her desire for a smoke-free work environment.  A Law Division judge granted summary judgment to the defendants.  The Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, affirmed the trial judge’s decision to grant summary judgment for the defendants because the Plaintiff “did not demonstrate she was capable of performing the essential requirements of her job to the satisfaction of her employer in spite of her alleged handicap . . . . Plaintiff failed to demonstrate that, with a reasonable accommodation, she would have been able to perform her job function satisfactorily.”  The court concluded that even if the company had provided the relief she was requesting, including a totally smoke-free environment, “neither of those accommodations would have solved the underlying problem that led to plaintiff’s dismissal — her inability to show up for work on a consistent and reliable basis over a prolonged period of time.”

740 A.2d 662, 9 AD Cases 1777, 326 N.J. Super. 59, 1999 N.J. Super. LEXIS 368.