In an important decision for employers, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has reversed a troubling federal district court ruling that certified a class action brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) purporting to cover a group of over 7,000 former and current employees employed in over 650 different jobs. The appeals court concluded that the individualized nature of the inquiries required under the ADA in this case did not make it suitable for class action treatment.
At issue in Harris v. Union Pacific, No. 19-1514 (8th Cir. March 24, 2020), was whether a class of more than 7,000 current and former employees asserting workplace discrimination based on the company’s application of a fitness-for-duty program should have been certified. The Eighth Circuit answered the question with a resounding no, observing that ADA liability determinations are highly individualized and generally not suitable to be dispensed with through a class action.
Importantly, while the Eighth Circuit did not rule that class certification is never warranted under the ADA, its ruling here highlights the duty of the federal trial courts to conduct rigorous analyses before determining that class certification of a case is appropriate. A copy of the Eighth Circuit’s opinion in Harris v. Union Pacific is available online.
Members of the Center for Workplace Compliance (CWC) can read more here.