The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, reversing a federal trial court’s granting of summary judgment to the employer, has ruled that a former employee can take her claims of failure to accommodate and unlawful retaliation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to a jury.
The ruling by the appeals court in Rowlands v. United Parcel Service, No. 17-3281 (7th Cir. August 24, 2018), found that there was enough of a dispute in the facts presented to let a jury decide whether an employee who was terminated for allegedly threatening another employee had placed the employer on sufficient notice while employed that she was requesting a reasonable accommodation, as well as whether her termination was actually the result of unlawful retaliation for exercising her ADA rights.
We should note that the number of court cases we are seeing that allege ADA failure to accommodate claims has grown substantially over the last several years. And while this case is intensely fact-specific, it nevertheless serves as a reminder that the courts today are broadly finding that the ADA applies in close cases in light of the 2008 ADA Amendments Act.
Accordingly, an employer is well-advised to carefully assess a request for accommodation by seeking more information and/or engaging in the so-called ADA “interactive process”, as well as ensuring that any adverse action taken is not connected to an individual’s exercise of her or his ADA rights.
A copy of the Rowlands ruling is available online.
Members of the Center for Workplace Compliance (CWC) can read more here.