Top Ohio Disability Discrimination Lawyer Reply: What is an essential duty of the job under the ADA? I’m a disabled employee who can do everything in my job description except one rarely required task my boss has given to other employees to do; am I protected by the ADA if my boss doesn’t provide an accommodation?
The innovations in technology and communication have brought dramatic shifts in the workplace and how Americans conduct business on a daily basis. Cell phones, computers, pagers, video conferencing and the internet allow employees to work from any location and at all hours of the day. Technology has also bridged the gap for many employees who suffer a disability and cannot work without the use of assistance devices or in some cases, the ability to work from home. Although technology has allowed more workers to stay engaged in the workplace, there are times where technology just isn’t a solution. What happens when the employee, due to the nature of the job they are required to do, needs an accommodation that interferes with the “essential duties” of the job?
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, disabled employees are protected from discrimination in the workplace so long as there are qualified employees who can fulfill the essential duties of the job or essential job functions. A qualified individual is “an individual who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the employment position that such individual holds or desires.” In Wardia v. Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Dept., a Youth Worker at a correctional facility, John Wardia, was able to do every single function in his job description except place inmates in physical restraints due to a neck injury. Wardia was reassigned to provide support in the Control Room as an accommodation until he was able to undergo neck surgery. After Wardia returned from surgery, he was advised by his physician that the accommodation he had before the surgery would need to be a permanent accommodation. Wardia was forced to take short term disability leave and was eventually terminated from employment because the employer classified the restraint task as an essential duty.
Wardia sued for wrongful termination, stating his rights under the ADA were violated because he was able to do the essential duties of the job and argued that the physical restraint task was rarely required, therefore not an essential duty under the ADA. In the alternative, Wardia argued that the control room position was a full-time position that the employer could offer as an accommodation under the ADA.
The United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (Ohio) held in favor of the employer, stating that the purpose of the control room is to provide temporary light duty for injured employees and the employer is not required to make it into a full-time position. “To do otherwise would actually frustrate the purposes of the ADA: if employers are locked into extending temporary positions for injured workers on a permanent basis (whether initially granted consistent with company policy or as a well-intentioned special arrangement), they might well be less inclined to permit such an arrangement in the first place.” The court also held that even though a task in the employee’s job description is rarely required, asking the employer to shift the essential duty to another non-disabled employee would be an undue burden and not an accommodation required by the ADA. The key is that being able to restrain an inmate – even though infrequently done – was crucial to the job. Really, what good is a guard if he or she cannot restrain an inmate when necessary? Had the issue been that John sought an accommodation that required him to not be required to stand for two hours without taking a break, the decision likely would have been different.
In light of this decision, it is important to understand an employer under the ADA has the right to write the job description and use their discretion as to what part of the job is essential. Job descriptions often have tasks that are rarely required to be completed by the employee. Even if the task is rarely required to be done by the employee, a court may interpret the task as an essential function of the job, or they may not. The employee in this case may consulted an attorney to late or not made the right arguments. The employee may have not gotten good advice on whether to considering settling the case. But every case is different. Different facts. Different employers. Differed Judges.
Having to live with a disability is difficult enough without worrying about the effect it may have on your job. 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. Call our Ohio employment law attorneys 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 disabled employees’ rights under ADA and Ohio employment law.
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