Once A Disabled Employee Requests A Reasonable Accommodation, Employers Must Try To Find One
Having represented employment discrimination victims for almost two decades, our Marion County, Florida employment discrimination lawyers know that employers often refuse to provide disabled employees with a reasonable accommodation that will enable them to continue working. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it is an unlawful employment practice for employers to discriminate against employees on the basis of disability. Discrimination under the ADA includes not making reasonable accommodations to the known mental or physical limitations of employees with a disability. Under the ADA therefore, an employer may be held liable for failing to provide a disabled employee with a reasonable accommodation.
Employers Must Engage In Interactive Process
Under the ADA, reasonable accommodations include job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position, and a leave of absence. Once an employee requests an accommodation, employers are required to participate in an interactive process with the employee in order to determine the appropriate accommodation. The interactive process requires that employers make a good-faith effort to seek a reasonable accommodation. As explained by the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Taylor v. Phoenixville School District, 174 F.3d 142 (3d Cir. 1999), “employers can show their good faith attempts to find a reasonable accommodation in a number of ways, such as meeting with the employee who requests an accommodation, requesting information about the condition and what limitations the employee has, asking the employee what he or she specifically wants, showing some sign of having considered the employee’s request, and offering and discussing available alternatives when the employee’s request is too burdensome.”
Employee Claims Failure To Accommodate
The recent decision by the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in Garrison v. Dolgencorp., LLC, Case No. 18-1066 (8th Cir. Oct. 3, 2019) illustrates that when an employer fails to participate in an interactive process with the employee to find a reasonable accommodation, an employee bringing a failure to accommodate claim will generally be allowed to bring the case to the jury for resolution. In that case, Rochelle Garrison (Garrison) brought an employment discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, Dollar General, pursuant to the ADA. Garrison claims that Dollar General failed to reasonably accommodate her disability in violation of the ADA.
Garrison was a lead sales associate at a Dollar General store in Missouri. Garrison, who suffers from anxiety, migraines, and depression, wanted to take a leave of absence due to her worsening medical condition. When Garrison asked her supervisor, Bell, how she could request a leave of absence, Bell told Garrison that no leave was available and that she should “read the employee handbook.” When Garrison later met with Bell, Garrison made clear that she was seeking a leave of absence due to anxiety and depression. Bell again stated that no leave was available and warned Garrison that she could not remain a full-time employee if she kept missing shifts.
The following week, Garrison missed a shift due to an emergency room visit for gastritis and anxiety. She requested a vacation for the remainder of the week, but Garrison refused. Garrison then informed Bell that she was quitting because it was the only way that she could “get better.” Dollar General replaced Garrison with someone who Bell had hired a week earlier, after the subject of leave had come up.
Employer Could Have Provided An Accommodation
The trial court dismissed Garrison’s disability discrimination claim. On appeal, the Eighth Circuit reversed the trial court’s decision and reinstated Garrison’s disability discrimination claim. In reversing the trial court, the appellate court focused on Dollar General’s failure to engage in an interactive process with Garrison after she requested a reasonable accommodation for her disability by requesting a leave of absence from work.
The Eighth Circuit explained that once Garrison made the request for an accommodation, Dollar General “had an obligation to take some initiative and identify a reasonable accommodation.” However, as the court of appeals explained, “all Bell did [ ] was direct Garrison to read the employee handbook, which is not enough.” The appellate court further explained that if Dollar General had engaged in an interactive process, it “could have reasonably accommodated Garrison’s disability.” In support of this conclusion, the court of appeals pointed to testimony from Bell that if Garrison had been eligible for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, she would have “protected” Garrison’s job and made it work. Thus, the Eighth Circuit reasoned, “it stands to reason that Dollar General could have found a way to make leave (or some other reasonable accommodation) work under the ADA too had Bell considered it.”
Free Consultation With Ocala Discrimination Lawyers
Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Marion County, Florida employment discrimination attorneys have been dedicated to representing employees for almost two decades. If you have been the victim of employment discrimination or have question about your rights under the employment discrimination laws, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Marion County, Florida employment discrimination lawyers. Our employment and labor law attorneys take employment discrimination cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.