The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has reinstated and sent to trial a lawsuit alleging that the failure to supply a pharmaceutical sales representative (PSR) with a full-time driver — which she claimed would have enabled her to perform the essential functions of her job after her disability rendered her unable to drive — amounted to an unlawful failure to accommodate in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The unpublished, unsigned opinion by the appeals court in Stephenson v. Pfizer Inc., No. 14-2079 (4th Cir. March 2, 2016) reversed a federal trial court, finding that disputed issues of fact existed as to whether the ability to drive, or merely the ability to travel to and from physician offices, was an essential function of the plaintiff’s job.

In this case, even though the ADA and its implementing regulations state that a written job description outlining essential functions is only one of many factors to be considered in determining whether a job function is essential, the Fourth Circuit found that the absence of any mention of driving as an essential function in the PSR job description was effectively dispositive in its decision to reverse the trial court.

NT Lakis lawyers had filed a “friend-of-the-court” brief in the case urging the Fourth Circuit to affirm the trial court’s finding that driving was an essential job function that did not entitle the plaintiff to a reasonable accommodation.

A copy of the Fourth Circuit’s ruling in Stephenson is available online here.

Members of the Equal Employment Advisory Council (EEAC) can read more here.