Americans with Disabilities Act requires work accommodations

It’s a rough road for employees with disabilities, and sometimes it’s even tougher if the employer merely ‘perceives’ that there’s a disability. Wisconsin and all other states are bound by the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This case is about a deputy Sheriff in another state who had a stroke. He came back to work several months later on a part-time basis and then moved to full-time.

Co-workers commented on his performance and behavior, such as his frustration, memory lapses, dizziness and temper tantrums. He was put on administrative leave and given a medical examination. The physician found potential problems to cognitive functioning that should be investigated. A psychologist recommended a low-stress job without regular public contact.

He returned again in a temporary office position, but this ended because of no funding for the job. He was then terminated due to not being medically cleared to perform any other open positions. The federal district court decided that the man could not perform the essential functions of his job with or without reasonable accommodation.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. The court noted that he didn’t ask for an accommodation because he didn’t feel he needed one, and didn’t identify a vacant position that he could perform. The court reiterated the familiar elements required for an ADA prima facie case, to wit, that an employee must show that (1) he is disabled (or perceived as disabled) as defined under the law, (2) he can perform the essential functions of his job with or without reasonable accommodation, and (3) he suffered disability discrimination.

These are the required elements in Wisconsin and elsewhere for a case under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Here, it appears that the employer did not agree that the deputy could perform the ‘essential functions of his job’, and the courts agreed. But the Court of Appeals pointed out that he could have asked for an accommodation. However, the man claimed that the employer merely ‘perceived’ that he had a disability. By not accepting that he was having actual problems performing, he ruled out asking for work modifications that, even if denied by the employer, would have greatly increased his chances to win damages.

Source:, “Disabilities: Did deputy sheriff’s termination violate the ADA?” June 27, 2013


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