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May 24, 2023
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In Beasley v. O’Reilly Auto Parts, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit said a claim for failure-to-accommodate under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) must include an adverse employment action. Here, the plaintiff was deaf with only 30% understanding of verbal communication and worked for O’Reilly Auto Parts (O’Reilly) as a warehouse worker. The employee relied on American Sign Language to communicate, to which O’Reilly agreed to provide an interpreter when needed upon his hire. During a disciplinary meeting for poor attendance, the employee requested and was denied an ASL interpreter. The discipline resulted in a written warning and a lower than usual performance review. O’Reilly used performance reviews to provide merit increases which the employee was now denied. He resigned and filed a claim under Title I of the ADA for failure to provide a reasonable accommodation.
The Court ultimately affirmed the lower court’s ruling that plaintiffs in failure-to-accommodate claims must prove an adverse employment action occurred. The court noted that having an ASL interpreter would not have improved the employee’s attendance score or provided him with a better performance review. There was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether a denied accommodation led to a lower pay increase; however, the employee must still prove that it was an adverse employment action.
With the Eleventh Circuit’s ruling, there is now a split in the federal courts as to whether a failure-to-accommodate claim under the ADA requires an adverse employment action. The U.S. Supreme Court has, for now, declined review of other similar cases to provide a definitive answer for employers. Employers should review their options with legal counsel prior to denying a request for a reasonable accommodation.
- Review anticipated denials of reasonable accommodations under the ADA with legal counsel.
Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser. © 2023 ManagEase