Employment lawyers have been at the epicenter of legal issues related to COVID-19—from the early days when businesses around the world shut down—to the protections of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act—to vaccine mandates, COVID has presented an array of new and challenging employment issues. Now, the first claims of COVID-related discrimination are starting to be addressed, including the recent decision of Matias v. Terrapin House, No. 5:21-cv-02288, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 176094 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 16, 2021), in which an employee claimed that she was discriminatorily terminated because she was “regarded as” disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act after she advised her former employer of her COVID diagnosis.
Termination After Disclosing Diagnosis
Ninoshka Matias began her employment with Terrapin House, a residential medical-care facility, in late August 2020. On Nov. 19, Matias texted Terrapin to advise that she felt ill. Terrapin’s representative asked Matias whether she was experiencing any symptoms—to which Matias responded that the felt as though she was losing her senses of taste and smell. Matias advised Terrapin of her positive COVID test on Nov. 22. She was terminated later that day on the grounds that she was not “a good fit.” Matias’ complaint asserts that she had received no discipline during her roughly three months of employment. Matias initially brought suit against Terrapin for violating the employment provisions of the FFCRA. She subsequently amended her complaint to add claims for violations of the ADA and PHRA based upon Terrapin having regarded her as disabled. Terrapin moved to dismiss these latter two claims.