Ability to work overtime can be ADA essential function, court says
- The ability to work overtime can be an essential job function for a delivery driver, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) case (Faidley v. United Parcel Service of America, Inc., No. 16-1073 (8th Cir. May 11, 2018)).
- Jerry Faidley worked as a UPS driver. After multiple injuries and a surgery, his doctor determined that he could work no more than eight hours per day. Because the position required additional hours, UPS suggested that he apply for other jobs within the company. None were available, and it offered him a part-time job. He declined and sued.
- A federal district court dismissed his claim, finding that Faidley wasn't qualified for the driver job — a prerequisite for succeeding on an ADA claim — because the ability to work overtime was an essential function of that job. He appealed but the full 8th Circuit upheld the lower court's ruling. "We agree with the district court that UPS satisfied its burden of proof on this fact-intensive issue, which turns on factors such as the employer’s judgment, its written job description, the terms of any applicable collective bargaining agreement, and the consequences of not requiring the incumbent to perform the function," the court concluded.
Courts often give deference to employers when it comes to essential functions. This determination is relevant in ADA claims because the law doesn't require that employers remove essential functions as a disability accommodation. Marginal functions, however, may have to be removed.
UPS explained that it considers overtime essential because daily package loads can increase unpredictably, particularly during the year-end holiday season and because of weather conditions. If a driver is not able to deliver all of his or her packages in eight hours and is restricted from working overtime, other drivers would have to finish the deliveries or the packages would not be delivered on time — both of which would negatively affect the company's business, UPS said.
UPS also was able to show that the written job description for the driver job listed overtime as a requirement and was collectively bargained with a union — factors that are often considered evidence of essential functions, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Courts often have to resolve this question, however, and the outcomes vary because of the fact-specific nature of the claims. This year alone, the 11th Circuit held that the ability to work a 12-hour shift was not an essential function of campus police officer job. "Physical presence" was not essential for an attorney who requested a temporary remote work arrangement, according to the 6th Circuit. But the ability to work a rotating shift can be essential for a Burger King manager, the 1st Circuit held just weeks ago.
These rulings all demonstrate the importance of both written job descriptions — that employees have signed off on — and the ADA's interactive process.
- 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Faidley v. United Parcel Service, Inc.