Failure to Accommodate Is Enough to Win an ADA Claim

A Colorado county health inspector sued her employer due to its failure to accommodate her disability of having limited use of her arm. The federal district court ruled that the failure to help her do her job by providing an accommodation was not enough. She also needed to prove that she was impacted adversely in some way, such as a demotion, discharge, or other adverse action.

The health inspector appealed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. The appellate court overturned the district court decision and noted that the phrase “adverse employment action” is not part of the language in the ADA accommodation provisions. The trial judge, therefore, effectively read an additional requirement into the law, the appellate court found.

This is not an unusual standard in federal districts across the country, and employers are reminded that when an employee complains of a disability that impacts their abilities in the workplace, it is essential that the employer discuss the situation with the employee and determine a way to reasonably accommodate the disability.