Legal Briefing: Worker With Multiple Seizures Not Qualified for Job Under ADA
Although an employer is required to engage in an interactive with an employee to determine if a reasonable accommodation exists, the employee must still be able to perform the essential functions of the job to retain the protections of the ADA.
Andrea Olsen was a mammography technologist for Capital Region Medical Center in Jefferson City, Missouri. In 2004, after Olsen began having seizures at work, CRMC eliminated working conditions believed to trigger her seizures such as removing mold, assigning other technicians to patients wearing heavy perfume, installing anti-glare light filters, eliminating computer scrolling and reducing the brightness of X-ray films. Olsen continued to have seizures.
After having a seizure in front of a patient, Capital Region reassigned Olsen to a temporary file clerk position. Olsen continued to have seizures and was placed on administrative leave. After changing medication, Olsen informed the medical center that her seizures were under control. Olsen rejected Capital Region’s offer to reinstate her at her prior rate of pay with full seniority, instead wanting the medical center to create a breast health coordinator position for her. After rejecting the reinstatement offer, Capital Region terminated Olsen. When she refused to return to work, she was fired. Olsen sued the medical center for disability and age discrimination. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri granted summary judgment and dismissed her claims, so Olsen appealed.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit affirmed the trial court’s decision and agreed that Olsen could not show that she was qualified to perform the essential functions of a mammography technician with or without reasonable accommodation. The court further held that CRMC engaged in an interactive process when it attempted to accommodate Olsen. Olsen v. Capital Region Med. Ctr., 8th Cir., No. 12-2113, (May 7, 2013).
IMPACT: Although an employer is required to engage in an interactive with an employee to determine if a reasonable accommodation exists, the employee must still be able to perform the essential functions of the job to retain the protections of the ADA.