The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) protects employees from disability discrimination by, among other things, requiring employers to provide a reasonable accommodation if doing so will allow the disabled employee to perform as well as a non-disabled individual. A “reasonable accommodation” is any change or adjustment to a job or work environment that will allow a disabled employee to perform the essential functions of the job.
The employment attorneys at Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm have previously blogged that the ADA does not require employers to assume that a reasonable accommodation is necessary just because an employee has difficulty performing his or her job. As one recent Tenth Circuit case demonstrates, an employer is also not required to assume that an employee’s disability is the reason for the employee’s poor performance.
In Dinse v. Carlisle Foodservice Products, Inc., the Tenth Circuit recently ruled that an employee’s request for a laptop so he could work from home while recovering from surgery was a “far cry from a ‘sufficiently direct and specific’ request for an accommodation” that could put his employer on notice that his disability was affecting his work.
Dinse, who suffered from diabetes; a heart condition; spinal issues; and a degenerative hip condition, alleged that his health conditions were affecting his focus, and made him extremely tired and unproductive while at work. He further claimed that his supervisors were aware of his health issues because he often took sick leave for doctor’s visits and physical therapy, walked with a cane, and was visibly in pain.
Shortly after informing his employer of his need for surgery and requesting a laptop to work from home while recovering, Dinse was terminated. In support of the decision to terminate him, the employer asserted that Dinse continually fell behind on assigned tasked and was as much as 17 weeks behind on at least one assignment. The employer further argued that, despite warnings about falling behind, Dinse did not explain how his health was affecting his work, or request the ability to work from home in order to keep up with the assignments. He only made the request to work from home in connection with his surgery.
The trial court dismissed Dinse’s case, and the Tenth Circuit agreed finding that simple knowledge of an employee’s disability is insufficient to trigger an employer’s duty to accommodate. Boiled down to common sense, the ruling means that an employer is not required to assume that a reasonable accommodation is necessary simply because an employee has a disability. After all, not all disabilities require an accommodation. As for Dinse’s request for a laptop, the Court noted that Dinse specifically requested the laptop because of his surgery and not as an accommodation that would enable him to perform his essential job functions.
As this case demonstrates, an employee might think that his or her employer has unlawfully denied a requested for a reasonable accommodation only to find out that the request was not “sufficiently direct and specific.” If you believe you are entitled to a reasonable accommodation, speak with an employment attorney who can assist you in requesting the accommodation from your employer. Unfortunately, Dinse would be in much better shape had he consulted a disability discrimination attorney before being wrongfully terminated.
If you are disabled or your employer perceives you as being disabled; and you have been fired, wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, demoted, wrongfully disciplined, denied wages, or even think that you might need a disability discrimination lawyer, then call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040. The best option is not to wait. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting disables employees’ rights under ADA and Ohio law.
The materials available at the top of this page and on this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. It would be best for you to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to disability discrimination questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, attorney Brian Spitz or any individual attorney.