- An employee who can, with some difficulty, perform the essential functions of a job without accommodation remains eligible to request and receive a reasonable accommodation, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Aug. 21, vacating a jury verdict (Bell v. O'Reilly Auto Enterprises, LLC dba O'Reilly Auto Parts, No. 18-2164 (1st Cir., Aug. 21, 2020)).
- A district court erred when it instructed a jury that, for an employee with a disability to advance a failure-to-accommodate claim, he needed to demonstrate that he needed an accommodation to perform the essential functions of his job, the appeals court said. In doing so, it incorrectly limited liability for the employer, O'Reilly Auto Enterprises, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
- The court ordered a new trial for the plaintiff, a store manager who had requested an hours restriction to accommodate a disability.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) forbids discrimination based on disability and also requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations to workers with disabilities unless the employer would suffer an undue hardship as a result.
Once an employee has requested an accommodation, employers are generally encouraged to engage in an interactive process to identify possible accommodations. While a failure to engage in the process isn't a violation of federal law, it can serve as evidence of discrimination, experts have said. And showing that an employer caused a breakdown in the interactive process, including ending it prematurely or refusing to engage in the process altogether, can serve as evidence of disability discrimination.
Many employers fail to counter a suggested accommodation if they can't give an employee the requested accommodation, experts say. Employers should offer a reasonable alternative even if they think the employee will reject it, Michelle Seldin Silverman, a partner at Morgan Lewis, previously told HR Dive. Experts also suggest that HR be trained on the elements of a "good, interactive process" and that managers be trained to identify requests that trigger the employer's ADA responsibilities and to escalate the requests when appropriate.