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Can My Job Force A Disability Accommodation On Me?

by | Mar 28, 2024 | Disability Discrimination, Employment Discrimination, Employment Law, Federal Law Update |

How do you prove a failure to accommodate under the ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on their disability. Discrimination, as defined by the ADA, includes the failure to provide reasonable accommodations for known physical or mental limitations of qualified individuals with disabilities, unless such accommodations would create undue hardship for the employer. Disability discrimination can be proven using either direct or circumstantial evidence. However, when it comes to claims of failure to accommodate, direct evidence is typically involved.

The direct evidence test the initial burden is on the employee to establish their disability, that the employee is qualified for the position, either without accommodation, with a non-central job function removed, or with a proposed reasonable accommodation. If the employee can do so, the employer then must demonstrate either the essential nature of a challenged job criterion or that a proposed accommodation would impose undue hardship.

Cases of failure to accommodate generally fall into two main categories: those where employees asserts they can perform their job without accommodation, and those where they challenge a specific job requirement or request accommodations from employers.

Today, we are focusing on the situations where the employee does not want an accommodation and thinks that they can do the job.

Best Disability Discrimination Lawyer Blogs on Point:

What can I do if my job thinks I need a disability accommodation, but I don’t?

The employer will have to show that the duty in question is a central function of the job; and then the employee will have the burden of showing that they can perform the job satisfactorily without an accommodation. If an employee asserts that they can fulfill their job’s essential duties without accommodation, but the employer argues that the employee’s disability prevents satisfactory job performance, objective evidence will be sufficient to establish this matter.

Best ADA Law Firm Blogs on Point:

Do you have an example?

Of course! Today, our employment discrimination lawyers are here to discuss the recent case of

Cooper v. Dolgencorp, LLC, No. 23-5397, 2024 WL 638551 (6th Cir. Feb. 15, 2024).

Cameron Cooper started working for CCCI as a delivery merchandiser in 2016, a position he held despite being diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome prior to his employment. Tourette Syndrome, characterized by involuntary movements and vocalizations known as tics, including coprolalia, which causes the involuntary use of obscene and inappropriate language, was a known aspect of Cooper’s condition when CCCI hired him. However, it appears that CCCI was not fully aware of the extent of Cooper’s symptoms at the time of his hiring.

Despite his condition, Cooper was responsible for delivering CCCI’s products to various customer locations in northeast Tennessee, including retailers like Dollar General. His duties included tasks such as stocking shelves, rotating products, and providing excellent customer service. However, complaints from customers began to arise, particularly regarding Cooper’s use of offensive language, including racial slurs like “n*gg*r” and gender based words like “b*tch”. These complaints were brought to CCCI’s attention as early as fall 2016, and incidents continued to occur throughout Cooper’s employment.

CCCI attempted to address the situation by adjusting Cooper’s responsibilities and offering accommodations. Cooper took medical leave at various points to manage his condition, adjusting his medication and seeking additional treatment. However, despite these efforts, incidents involving offensive language persisted. CCCI even adjusted Cooper’s job role to minimize customer interaction, but challenges remained.

In October 2019, after another incident involving Cooper using offensive language, CCCI gave him a limited choice for continued employment: take another leave of absence or transfer to a vacant, overnight warehouse position with no customer interaction. Cooper requested to be placed on a non-customer-facing delivery route, but CCCI stated that there were no such positions available at that time. Ultimately, Cooper accepted the warehouse position, albeit with a pay cut.

Cooper continued to work at the warehouse until April 2020, when he resigned to take another job. He reported that his decision to leave was not due to any issues with CCCI but rather an opportunity for alternative employment. Since then, Cooper has worked as a delivery driver for other companies without experiencing similar challenges related to his Tourette Syndrome.

After leaving CCCI, Cooper sued and asserted several claims including for being forced into the overnight non-client facing position as an unwanted accommodation.

CCCI identified “excellent customer services skills” as the central job function at issue, which Cooper stipulated was essential. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held:

A reasonable jury could not find that Cooper could provide excellent customer service to CCCI’s customers in his role as a delivery merchandiser without an accommodation. Of particular importance, Cooper’s own doctor noted that Cooper needed an accommodation to perform his job duties. When a plaintiff’s own doctor—not merely the defendant employer—concludes that the plaintiff cannot perform his job without an accommodation, the plaintiff likely cannot establish that he is otherwise qualified to perform the job without an accommodation. Cooper’s disability, moreover, caused him to vocalize racist and profane words in the presence of others in the stores of CCCI’s customers. At various times during his employment, CCCI’s customers complained about the language he used while delivering CCCI’s products. … Though the burden for demonstrating that one is otherwise qualified for a position is “not an onerous one,” Hostettler v. Coll. of Wooster, 895 F.3d 844, 855 (6th Cir. 2018), this evidence shows that Cooper could not provide excellent customer service without an accommodation.

Id. at *5.

While Cooper requested transfer to two other positions if an accommodation was required, one position no longer existed, and the other was already full. But employers are not required to create new positions as an accommodation; and a request to transfer to a non-vacant position is considered unreasonable as a matter of law. See 42 U.S.C. § 12111(9)(B). Moreover, employers are entitled to choose any reasonable accommodation, even if it is not the preference of the employee.

Cooper argued that reassigning him to the overnight warehouse position at a lower pay rate was a “demotion” to a “far less desirable” position, and thus, an adverse employment action against him. However, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held, “an employer may reassign an employee to a lower grade and paid position if the employee cannot be accommodated in the current position and a comparable position is not available.” Id. at *7 (quoting Cassidy v. Detroit Edison Co., 138 F.3d 629, 634 (6th Cir. 1998)).

Based on this analysis, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the District Court properly dismissed Cooper’s disability discrimination failure to accommodate claims.

Best Failure to Accomodate Attorney Blogs on Point:

What should I do if my job will not accommodate my disability?

When facing the challenge of your employer’s refusal to accommodate your disability, seeking legal guidance becomes essential to ensure your rights are protected. An employment attorney can provide invaluable expertise in navigating the complexities of disability discrimination laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and help you determine the best course of action to take. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, stands out as a trusted option for individuals grappling with disability discrimination in the workplace. With their specialized focus on employment law, including disability discrimination cases, their team of lawyers possess a deep understanding of the legal intricacies involved. By choosing Spitz, you can rest assured that you’ll be represented by attorneys who are well-versed in advocating for individuals facing similar challenges.

What sets Spitz apart is their commitment to making legal assistance accessible to everyone. They offer a free initial consultation, providing you with the opportunity to discuss your case with an experienced attorney without any financial obligation. During this consultation, you can receive personalized advice tailored to your specific circumstances, empowering you to make informed decisions about your next steps. Furthermore, Spitz operates on a no-fee guarantee basis, meaning you won’t incur any legal fees unless they successfully recover compensation on your behalf. This ensures that financial concerns won’t stand in the way of pursuing justice for disability discrimination. With Spitz, you can trust that your case will be handled with the utmost professionalism and dedication, allowing you to focus on securing the accommodations you need to thrive in your workplace.


The content provided on this employment law website, including materials pertaining to disability discrimination and failure to accommodate, is intended solely for informational purposes. It is not intended to serve as legal advice. Visiting or utilizing this website, as well as accessing any links within it, does not establish an attorney-client relationship for your employment law matters. Any legal opinions expressed on this site are those of the individual lawyer and may not necessarily reflect the views of The Spitz Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any other individual attorney.Top of Form

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