Do You Have to Guess?

By Erica Gutherz

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.