Manager’s Part-Time Schedule Accommodation Meant He Wasn’t Qualified to Do His Job, Sixth Circuit Rules

As an employer, there are many human resources-related tasks with which you must concern yourself. Some of these might seem like less significant items, but even these “small” details can have great importance in certain situations. One example is maintaining updated, detailed, and complete job descriptions. While this might seem like a relatively minor thing, it was the key to success for one Ohio employer in a disability discrimination case one of its employees launched recently.

The employee was an operations manager at one of the employer’s distribution centers. In September 2011, the manager missed a month of work due to thyroid surgery. The manager returned for a month, but thyroid complications forced him back off work from November through March. He returned and worked from late March until early May, when he experienced another medical event related to his thyroid.

The employer and employee exchanged competing communications from May through September 2013, but the employer eventually concluded it could not accommodate the manager’s requests and terminated his employment. The employee then launched a timely action, accusing the employer of disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The trial court and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals both ruled against the employee’s case. One of the elements of a disability discrimination claim that can trip up many employee plaintiffs is the requirement that an employee establish that he was “qualified” for the job in question. Under the ADA, that means showing that you can do the essential duties of that job with or without a reasonable accommodation.

The manager in this case failed to clear that hurdle. In February 2013, he requested an accommodation in the form of a four-hours-per-day and five-days-per-week schedule. The proof of this schedule’s inherent inadequacy in meeting the essential duties of the position lay within the employer’s official written job description for an operations manager. That description stressed “the ‘supervisory responsibilities’ inherent in the position” of operations manager, which included “closely interacting with department associates.”

The extent to which the description focused upon these duties made it clear to the court that a 20-hours-per-week accommodation was not a reasonable one. The court found it “difficult to fathom” how an operations manager could perform these supervisory duties “if he were there to supervise and interact with the associates only part-time,” especially in light of the testimonial evidence in the case indicating that the job’s obligations required roughly 50-60 hours per week to complete.

At the most, the employee’s requested accommodation “would have allowed him to perform only some functions of his position, some of the time. The ADA requires more,” the court stated in its opinion.

Whether you are an employer or an employee, the small details can sometimes make big differences in a disability discrimination case. For advice and representation on which you can rely regarding these and other discrimination issues, talk to the knowledgeable Tennessee disability discrimination attorneys at Parks, Chesin & Walbert. Our team has been providing our clients with quality representation in ADA and other employment cases for many years and is ready to help you.

To speak with one of our lawyers about your case, call 404-873-8048.

More blog posts:

Eleventh Circuit Upholds Decision for Employer That Denied Additional Leave to Employee With Disability, Atlanta Employment Attorneys Blog, Jan. 19, 2017

11th Circuit Says Employer Not Required to Adopt Reporter’s Suggested Disability Accommodations, Atlanta Employment Attorneys Blog, March 24, 2016

Contact Information