As often as discrimination cases turn on hostility towards protected-class employees, it pays to remember that the same laws apply no less to discrimination motivated by other reasons, such as misguided paternalism. Here, the Fourth Circuit sends a case back for a trial where a hospital believed that 28-year-veteran employee could no longer safely navigate its campus.
The Ninth Circuit, substantially parting with the reasoning of the Seventh, holds (2-1) that a fifth-grade parochial school teacher did not fall within the ministerial exception articulated in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. EEOC, 565 U.S. 171 (2012).
The First Circuit affirms that, in an ADA case, it is often not necessary to present expert medical testimony to prove a disability. Nevertheless, the panel affirms summary judgment on the ground that the plaintiff - a police sergeant with a knee injury - failed to prove that his impairment substantially limited him in the major life activities of standing, walking, and bending.
Through careful advocacy, a former factory worker with lifting restrictions preserves most of his jury verdict in an ADA discrimination case - $181,522.61 in back pay and $92,000 in compensatory damages - and is remanded to the district court for an award of front pay.
The Tenth Circuit produces a clear circuit split on an issue now poised for Supreme Court review: must a ADA plaintiff challenging an employer's failure to reasonably accommodate a disability prove an adverse employment action? The panel splits two-to-one on this issue, in favor of the employer.
May an employer charge a job applicant for the cost of a post-offer medical review, when the employer believes that the applicant has a medical impairment? The Ninth Circuit holds "no" under the ADA, affirming a judgment on behalf of an employee who was asked to pay for his own MRI.
The Sixth Circuit affirms a jury award in an ADA case of $27,565 in back pay and $250,000 in compensatory damages, awarded to a dollar-store clerk who was fired for grabbing orange juice from the store fridge twice during diabetic episodes. The panel notes, among other things, that the failure to provide a reasonable accommodation can itself be direct evidence of discrimination.
Two opinions this week highlight the power of retaliation claims: in each case, the principal discrimination claim failed on summary judgment, yet the retaliation claim was remanded for trial.
The Sixth Circuit holds that full-time, in-office attendance is not a per se "essential function" for purposes of the ADA, and must be established just like any other element of the claim. The court vacates summary judgment and remands a claim brought under the ADA, Title VII, and the FMLA that the employee needed a reduced schedule to accommodate her post-partum depression and separation anxiety.
ADA opinions released in the Eighth and Ninth Circuits today underscore that the burden of proof, ultimately, is always on the employee to show that the employer failed to provide a reasonable accommodation. These serve as a reminder to disabled employees and counsel that when seeking reassignment as an accommodation, it is vital to request the reassignment clearly and to set one's sights realistically.