Paul Cronan – Legal and Ethical Case Analysis
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Paul Cronan and New England Telephone Company Case Analysis
Legal Case Analysis
Paul Cronan was a long-term New England Telephone Company (NET) employee (1973 – 1986), assigned at South Boston.
Paul was diagnosed with AIDS Related Complex (ARC) in 1985.
Paul informed his supervisor about ARC when asked about his third request to leave work for a medical appointment (1985).
Paul had a poor attendance history. His tardiness and medical appointments concerned his supervision.
Paul was granted NET sickness benefits in June 1985.
Disparaging comments about Paul and AIDS were observed in NET restrooms (summer 1985).
Paul obtained medical permission to return to work with NET, but his requests for transfer way from the South Boston dispatch center were not processed by his new supervisor (August 1885).

NET issues new AIDS policy (September 1985).
Paul is hospitalized (September 1985), and receives a memo from NET offering to return him to his previous position with reasonable accommodation for limitations.

Paul files suit against NET for “privacy law violations” and “discrimination” using Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts (December 1985).
NET tried to move the case to Federal court and failed (January 1986). The court determined that neither federal law nor union contracts preempted Massachusetts state laws on discrimination and privacy.

NET informs Paul his illness benefits have run out and place him on long-term disability (June 1986).
Paul and NET settle out of court, including allowing Paul to return to work at Needham facility (October 1886).
AIDS awareness training provided to NET personnel at Needham by medical AIDS specialists before Paul comes back to work (October 1986).
On Pauls first day back at NET Needham, he finds a hostile work environment and IBEW Local 2222 workers file a grievance over safety concerns related to exposure to AIDS (October 1986).

On Pauls second day back to work, 29 of 39 employees refused to enter the NET Needham facility and walked off the job. Several of these employees made statements regarding their fear AIDS and discomfort around Cronan (October 1986).

Critical Legal Issues:
Was Paul Cronan discriminated against on the basis of a handicap, AIDS?
Was AIDS/ARC a handicap?
Was Pauls right to privacy violated when supervision/management informed others of his condition?
Did NET officials deliberately coerce Paul not to return to work? Did they create a climate of suspicion and hostility toward Paul that made it impossible for him to return to work?

Legal Rules:
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 , (Title VII) prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; discriminate against an employee or applicant based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicapping condition, marital status, or political affiliation.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 , The Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs conducted by Federal agencies, in programs receiving Federal financial assistance, in Federal employment, and in the employment practices of Federal contractors. The standards for determining employment discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act are the same as those used in title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Section 503 requires affirmative action and prohibits employment discrimination by Federal government contractors and subcontractors with contracts of more than $10,000. Section 503 regulations apply to State and local government entities which have contracts with the Federal government if the State or local government entity participates in work on or under the contract or subcontract. Unlike coverage of private sector employers, the government entity but not the government as a whole becomes subject to Section 503 and its regulations when it enters into the contract.

Section 504 and regulations implementing the Act also prohibit discrimination in employment against qualified individuals with a disability. Like the ADA, a qualified individual with a disability is a person who: (1) has a physical or mental impairment which “substantially limits” one or more major life activities, (2) has a record of such impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment.

Covered Federal contractors and subcontractors are required to make reasonable accommodations to the physical or mental limitations of qualified individuals with disabilities. The conduct of NET falls under this Act due to the contractual relationship between NET and the Federal government.

Employers are also required to take all necessary actions to ensure that no one attempts to intimidate or discriminate against an individual for filing a complaint or participating in a proceeding under Section 503.

Paul Cronan missed work for months at a time before and after he was diagnosed with AIDS.
Paul hid his lifestyle from his employer and peers at NET.
NET attempted to do the right thing and allow Paul to return to work and accommodate his limitations, but were untimely in their response.
Paul and CLUM alleged that AIDS was a handicap and covered by statute, bringing a discrimination suit against NET.
Paul Cronan bypassed the process required by union contract to remedy his alleged mistreatment, and did not openly seek remedy with NET management.
This case was early in the AIDS legal issue and such was a precedent setting case” for future lawsuits by additional persons infected by AIDS.
The union (IBEW Local 2222) did not support a union member in an issue covered by contract. The union should have overtly worked with and for Paul in this case, including providing training on AIDS to fellow union members to provide them with the confidence necessary to support their union brother.

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Paul Cronan And Net Sickness Benefits. (April 2, 2021). Retrieved from