The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits an employer from discriminating against “a qualified individual with a disability because of the disability of such individual in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of the employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.” 42 U.S.C. § 12112. However, an employer is required to provide a “reasonable accommodation” to a qualified individual with a disability only when doing so would not cause an undue hardship to the employer. 42 U.S.C. § 12112. To limit potential liability under the ADA, employers should understand the legal framework for determining when an employee’s accommodation qualifies as “reasonable.” Peter Mavrick is a Fort Lauderdale employment attorney, who defends businesses and their owners against employment law claims, and represents clients in business litigation in Miami, Boca Raton, and Palm Beach. Such claims include alleged employment discrimination and retaliation as well as claims for overtime wages and other related claims. accommodations
To establish a prima facie case of discrimination under the ADA, a plaintiff must show: (1) he or she is disabled; (2) he or she is a qualified individual; and (3) he or she was subjected to unlawful discrimination because of her disability. Mason v. United Parcel Service Co. Inc, 674 Fed. Appx. 943 (11th Cir. 2017). A “qualified individual” is one who, “with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the employment position that such individual holds or desires.” 42 U.S.C. § 12112. In other words, the plaintiff must show that “[he or] she can perform the essential functions of [her] job without accommodation, or, failing that, show that [he or she] can perform the essential functions of [his or her] job with a reasonable accommodation.” Davis v. Fla. Power & Light, Co., 205 F.3d 1301 (11th Cir. 2000). “If the plaintiff cannot perform the essential functions of her job even with an accommodation, by definition she is not a qualified individual under the ADA.” Mason v. United Parcel Service Co. Inc, 674 Fed. Appx. 943 (11th Cir. 2017).
Courts evaluate whether a function is essential on a case-by-case basis by examining a number of facts. Holly v. Clairson Indus., LLC, 492 F.3d 1247 (11th Cir. 2007). An essential function is a fundamental job duty of a position and does not include marginal functions of the position. Earl v. Mervyns, Inc., 207 F.3d 1361 (11th Cir. 2000). The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has held that, “[i]n determining if a task is an essential function, relevant evidence may include: (1) the employer’s judgment as to what functions are essential, (2) a written job description, (3) the amount of time spent on the job performing the function, (4) the consequences of not requiring the employee to perform the function, (5) the terms of a collective bargaining agreement, (6) the work experience of past employees in the position, and (7) the current work experience of employees in similar jobs.” Mason v. United Parcel Service Co. Inc, 674 Fed. Appx. 943 (11th Cir. 2017).
“As to the discrimination prong, discrimination under the ADA includes the failure to make reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of the individual.” Holly v. Clairson Indus., LLC, 492 F.3d 1247 (11th Cir. 2007). “The plaintiff bears the burden both to identify an accommodation and show that it is reasonable.” Holly v. Clairson Indus., LLC, 492 F.3d 1247 (11th Cir. 2007). If the plaintiff can meet their burden, the defendant-employer can “then present evidence that the plaintiff’s requested accommodation imposes an undue hardship on the employer.” Holly v. Clairson Indus., LLC, 492 F.3d 1247 (11th Cir. 2007).
An accommodation is “reasonable” and necessary under the ADA only if it enables the employee to perform the essential functions of the job. The ADA does not require an employer to accommodate an employee in a manner she desires, nor is the employer required to “transform the position into another one by eliminating functions that are essential to the nature of the job as it exists.” Lucas v. W.W. Grainger, Inc., 257 F.3d 1249 (11th Cir. 2001). Accommodations are limited to “[m]odifications or adjustments to the work environment, or to the manner or circumstances under which the position . . . is customarily performed[.]” 29 C.R.F. § 1630.2.
An employer is not required to eliminate essential functions of a job, create a new job for the disabled employee, or otherwise provide accommodations to the disabled worker that would cause undue hardship to the employer. Therefore, a plaintiff is not considered a qualified individual under the ADA if they cannot show that a reasonable accommodation would have enabled them to perform the essential job functions. Agee v. Mercedes-Benz U.S. Intern., 646 Fed. Appx. 870 (11th Cir. 2016).
Peter Mavrick is a Fort Lauderdale employment lawyer, and represents clients in Miami, Boca Raton, and Palm Beach. This article does not serve as a substitute for legal advice tailored to a particular situation.