Within a week of Abercrombie & Fitch ("A&F") announcing a settlement with the EEOC of two Title VII religious accommodation claims involving hijab-wearing employees in California, the Tenth Circuit orders entry of judgment for the clothing retailer against the EEOC in a similar case arising out of Oklahoma. The 2-1 decision applies a formalistic circuit rule that "the applicant or employee must initially provide the employer with explicit notice of the conflicting religious practice and the need for an accommodation for it." Employees are forewarned that, where workplace accommodations are concerned, courts expect you speak up for your rights.
Both the EEOC and several court decisions have recognized that an employer's duty under the ADA and Rehabilitation Act to furnish reasonable accommodations is not limited to accommodating essential functions at work, but also ancillary functions important to achieving equal access - such as commuting to and from the office. See 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(o)(1); Colwell v. Rite Aid Corp., 602 F.3d 495 (3d Cir. 2010) (partly-blind employee could be accommodated with daylight shifts, to facilitate her commute). And so, too, the Fifth Circuit holds - reversing summary judgment - that the State of Louisiana might be required to provide a free on-site parking space to accommodate the plaintiff's disability (osteoarthritis of the knee).
The Seventh Circuit sends back for trial this Title VII religious-accommodation case, concerning a Nigerian employee's request for five weeks' leave time to attend his father's funeral overseas. One disputed issue was whether the employee clearly indicated a religious purpose for the voyage, where he said that "if he failed to lead the burial rites, he and his family members would suffer at least spiritual death."
Though slightly off the employment-beat, this Ninth Circuit decision may be useful to our readers, for the important and simple lesson that an Americans with Disabilities Act plaintiff does not necessarily need an expert to testify about architectural barriers. As the panel majority writes, "Perhaps we've become too expert-prone."
The Seventh Circuit substantially affirms a judgment in favor of the EEOC on a hard-fought ADA reasonable accommodations case, concerning an employee forced to work beyond his medical restrictions. The judgment included an award of $100,000 in compensatory damages, $200,000 in punitive damages, and $115,000 in back pay, plus an injunction on AutoZone's anti-discrimination practices.
Here's a case that might make even stalwart advocates of civil rights re-examine their prejudices. The Sixth Circuit reverses summary judgment in case claiming that a village violated its duties under the ADA and Rehabilitation Act when it rejected a candidate for a lifeguard position on the ground that he is deaf. The panel finds that it will be up to a jury to determine whether the candidate could have performed the essential duties of lifesaving with accommodations. It turns out that there is a long and distinguished history of deaf lifeguards in the US.
This government services case, brought under Title II of the ADA and Minnesota state law, demonstrates graphically - in a lesson important to ADA Title I employment cases - how the absence of American sign-language interpreters can impede understanding (and possibly result in legal liability). The panel holds that the city's failure to provide signers for a police interrogation may violate the rights of the disabled accused.
The Tenth Circuit joins other circuits and the EEOC in holding, under the Rehabilitation Act, that the required "reasonable accommodation" of persons with disabilities is not limited to accommodations related to the essential functions of a job. Here, the court holds that it may be a reasonable accommodation to transfer an employee to a major metropolitan area to enable her to get Medical attention. "Considering the case law from this court and others, we conclude that a transfer accommodation for Medical care or treatment is not per se unreasonable, even if an employee is able to perform the essential functions of her job without it."
The Seventh Circuit today announces the overruling of its precedents, EEOC v. Humiston-Keeling, 227 F.3d 1024 (7th Cir. 2000) and Mays v. Principi, 301 F.3d 866 (7th Cir. 2002), that held employers had no duty to place employees who were losing their current positions due to disability into vacant positions for which they are otherwise qualified. The court holds that this interpretation of the ADA was superseded by the Supreme Court decision, U.S. Airways, Inc. v. Barnett, 535 U.S. 391 (2002), and that employers have a duty to transfer.
The Tenth Circuit becomes the latest U.S. court of appeals to address the controversy of leave-time as a "reasonable accommodation" under the ADA. The court, in line with There circuits, recognizes the concept but holds that such leaves must be of a limited, definite duration.