Earlier this week in Gamble v. JP Morgan Chase & Company, et al., the 6th Circuit upheld a lower court decision throwing out the claim of a stockbroker against his employer for disability and age discrimination. Plaintiff argued that his employer violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) because, after he suffered a heart attack, his employer failed to accommodate his disability and terminated him following his disability leave. Under the ADEA and ADA, if a plaintiff does not present any direct evidence of discrimination, he or she is required to show, among other things, that he or she is “otherwise qualified for the position.” To make this decision, courts look to whether the employee is able to perform the “essential functions” of the job. Here, Plaintiff did not present any direct evidence of age or disability related discrimination and was completely disabled, unreleased to work by his doctor, and was unable to regularly attend his job. Thus, because the Court concluded that regular attendance is an “essential function” of being a stockbroker, as it is for most jobs, it determined that the Plaintiff was not “otherwise qualified” for his position and denied his claim.
The Court also rejected Plaintiff’s claim for failure to accommodate his disability based on the lack of any evidence that he requested accommodation.
Counsel to Management:
While this case presented a pretty simple determination of what is considered an “essential function,” not all cases are as self-evident. Because of this, it is important that employers have detailed job descriptions for each position along with a list “essential functions” for each. This case also serves as a reminder that employers should be prepared to provide reasonable accommodations to employees who, because of disability or medical condition, are temporarily unable to perform the “essential functions” of their job and engage in the “interactive process” with the employee once the need for accommodation arises. Contact the experts at Saqui Law Group if you have any questions regarding accommodating an employee with a disability or medical condition or updating your job descriptions.