An employee who is legally restricted from driving because of seizures is not “qualified” for a job that requires the employee to spend fifty percent of working hours on the road. In Minnihan v. Mediacom Communications Corp., No. 14-1109 (8th Cir. March 9, 2015), the employee wanted his employer to reallocate his driving responsibilities to other employees. Instead, the employer offered to reassign the employee to a non-driving position with comparable pay and benefits. The employee declined the offer and sued the employer. Common sense prevailed. The ADA does not require employers to reallocate the essential functions of a job. Where an employee spends half of his day visiting job sites, as in Minnihan, driving is an essential function of the job. To state the obvious, the employee’s claim failed.
Employers don’t have to guess an employee’s disability and force an accommodation under the ADA. In Walz v. Ameriprise Financial, Inc., No. 14-2495 (8th Cir. March 9, 2015), an employer fired its employee for repeated erratic, aggressive, and rude behavior toward coworkers and disrespectful and insubordinate behavior toward her supervisor. The employee suffered from bipolar disorder—but she never told her employer about her disability and never requested any accommodation. Even so, the employee argued that the employer should have guessed it and forced her to take leave.
Employers have to address employee disabilities that limit performance and are “open, obvious, and apparent to the employer.” In Walz, the employer suspected a mental illness, but suspicion, without more, is insufficient to require (or permit) an employer to address a disability.