Seventh Circuit: ADA Reasonable Accommodation and Discrimination Claims Tempered by Employee Behavior

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July 23, 2019

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In Graham v. Artic Zone Iceplex, LLC, a former employee claimed a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by the employer for (1) failure to provide reasonable accommodations of his disability, and (2) terminating him due to his disability. The Court explained that identifying a “reasonable accommodation” for an employee requires input from both employee and employer, and is a collaborative effort. This includes notice by the disabled employee to the employer if an accommodation provided does not meet the employee’s needs. If the employee fails to provide sufficient information in this regard, the employer cannot be held liable for failing to accommodate the employee.

Further, to determine whether the disabled employee was unlawfully terminated under the ADA, the court looked at whether the employee would have kept his job if he was not disabled, under the otherwise same employment circumstances. There, the employee had behavioral problems that were well-documented in his termination notice. He argued that since he had no previous written notice of the behavioral issues, they could not constitute a legitimate basis for termination. The court disagreed, stating that despite the fact that a violation or complaint is not formally written in a notice, it can become a legitimate basis for the employee’s lawful termination.

Although the court leaned in favor of the employer, in part because the employee did not present sufficient evidence of discrimination, best practice is for employers to document all disciplinary measures, rather than risk a ruling based on potentially scant evidence.  Additionally, although the court stated no employer liability where the employee failed to give notice of an insufficient accommodation, best practice would be for employers to attempt to confirm, and document, the employee’s satisfaction with a reasonable accommodation.

Action Items

  1. Have reasonable accommodation procedures reviewed for compliance.
  2. Have managers trained on documenting disciplinary measures.
  3. Subscribers can call our HR On-Call Hotline at (888) 378-2456 for further assistance.

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.

© 2019 ManagEase

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