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Failure to provide reasonable accommodations claim in lawsuit

As our Colorado readers may have seen in our previous post here, an employer's requirement under the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide reasonable accommodations to an employee or potential employee who suffers from a disability is one of the most important aspects of the protections afforded under the ADA. The failure to provide reasonable accommodations could result in an employment discrimination lawsuit. For a former employee at Ford Motor Co., this is exactly what happened.

According to a recent report, the former employee, who was employed at the management level of the American car giant, suffers from irritable bowel syndrome. Back in 2009, while she was still employed, this woman reportedly put in a request to be allowed to telecommute four days per week - performing most of her duties via communication through telephones and computers. The woman claimed that this would be a reasonable accommodation for her purported disability. Ford Motor Co. refused the request, and the woman was later fired for "poor performance."

To make matters worse, this former employee has had a hard time pressing her claim. A trial court initially ruled that she could not proceed with her claim because the requested accommodation would not allow her to carry out her essential job duties. However, this determination was recently overruled.

On April 22, an appellate court ruled that the woman's case can proceed and that she may indeed have valid claims. However, this may only be a temporary win for this former employee - the appellate court also said that general rule is that telecommuting is a reasonable accommodation only in rare instances. Still, with this win at the appellate level the former Ford Motor Co. employee is that much closer to a recovering compensation if this instance is labeled as disability discrimination.

Source: Bloomberg BNA, "Court Says Telecommuting May Be Reasonable Accommodation, Allows EEOC Case to Proceed," Kevin P. McGowan, April 28, 2014

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