It should come as no surprise that the masking debate continues to heat up. In the past week, news outlets and social media platforms have been abuzz about face mask exemption cards.
Articles Discussing Reasonable Accommodation Under the ADA.
The New York District Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently commented that it had received an increasing number of charges relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, all of which alleged violations of the reasonable accommodation mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). While the number of filings was
Executive Summary: On Tuesday, October 22, 2019, a Tennessee federal judge rejected a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in which it claimed a nursing home failed to accommodate an employee with anxiety. Finding that the EEOC failed to show the employee’s anxiety qualified as a disability, this decision offers hope to employers faced with requests for accommodation where the employee claims generalized anxiety.
Executive Summary: On August 30, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, covering New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, issued a precedential opinion in an important case interpreting the Americans With Disabilities Act’s (ADA) public accommodations provision and its interaction with persons who rely on psychiatric service animals. In summary, the court: (1) deepened a circuit split by joining the Tenth Circuit in holding that the ADA applies to plasma donor centers; and (2) held that the plasma donor center at issue violated the ADA by imposing a blanket ban on prospective plasma donors who use psychiatric service animals. See Matheis v. CSL Plasma, Inc., (3d Cir. Aug. 30, 2019).
2019 has brought a flurry of new leave and accommodation laws. In fact, in the first 8 months of 2019, more than 20 new laws in this area have passed.
While it’s true that acts of generosity sometimes backfire on those who offer them, the Court’s ruling in Higgins v. Union Pac. R.R. Co., No. 18-1902 (8th Cir. July 24, 2019) shows this is not always the case. In Higgins, the Eighth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Union Pacific—holding that regular, reliable attendance was an essential function of Higgins’ position despite the fact that Union Pacific accommodated Higgins’ poor attendance for over a decade.
Executive Summary: Recent actions by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) emphasize employers’ obligations under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to accommodate workers’ religious objections to receiving a flu vaccination. For example, a Middle Tennessee hospital has agreed to pay $75,000 and perform other non-monetary actions to settle an EEOC lawsuit claiming it violated Title VII by failing to accommodate a worker’s sincerely held religious beliefs against receiving an annual flu vaccination.
In 2019, we are poised to learn where the Fourth Circuit stands on reassignment as an accommodation—an issue that has split the Circuits.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) includes within its definition of “discriminate,” an employer’s failure to provide a reasonable accommodation to a qualified individual with a disability. But, is a failure to accommodate standing alone—absent an adverse employment action—enough to establish an ADA failure-to-accommodate claim? For example, if an employer fails to accommodate a wheelchair-bound employee by refusing to move her office a few feet closer to the entrance, has the employer violated the ADA? In this scenario, assuming the facts show that traveling the extra distance is just a mere inconvenience, the answer likely depends on whether an adverse employment action is a required element of a failure-to-accommodate claim.
How reasonable must a reasonable accommodation be? Is moving an employee’s work location reasonable? Is providing an employee an aide reasonable? Of course, the answer depends on the circumstances and that’s what makes ADA compliance often difficult for employers. Consider the recent example of Hill v. Assocs. for Renewal in Educ., Inc.
As employers struggle with managing how much, if any, leave is required as an accommodation under the ADA, we are beginning to get more direction from the Courts to guide those decisions. In Easter v. Arkansas Children’s Hospital (E.D. Ark. Oct. 3, 2018) an employee was unable to work after exhausting her FMLA leave but she had an appointment to be evaluated by a specialist less than a month later. The employer denied the additional leave and terminated her employment. The Court held there was no violation of the ADA.
Dear Littler: I work in a health care setting in New Jersey. As flu season is approaching, we emailed all of our patient care employees (nurses, physical therapists, intake staff, etc.) to remind them that an immunization is required by our employer. The deadline is looming, but we have a nurse that is refusing to get the vaccine based on her supposed religious beliefs. We have exempted her for that reason in prior years—but the flu outbreak was so terrible last year, our employer does not want to allow religious exemptions. Do we need to accommodate her?
A recent Third Circuit case, Sessoms v. Trs. Of the Univ. of Pa., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 16611 (3rd Cir. June 20, 2018), serves as a reminder that while the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees, it does not obligate an employer to provide the accommodation requested by the employee. An employer may choose among reasonable accommodations as long as the chosen accommodation is effective
Holding that full-time presence at the workplace is not always an essential job function, on July 17, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed summary judgment in favor of the employer in an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) failure to accommodate case. The decision in Hostettler v. College of Wooster1 undermines the deference often afforded to employers in determining whether a particular function is an “essential” job function. Moreover, it appears to eliminate—at least within the Sixth Circuit—the argument that an accommodation permitting an employee to work less than full-time hours in a full-time position is per se unreasonable.
Under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), certain employers are required to make a reasonable accommodation to a qualified employee who has a disability. There is a growing trend in the federal courts that requests for an indefinite amount of time off from work due to a disability do not qualify as a reasonable accommodation and that an employer who denies such a request has not violated the ADA.