Permanent work-related injury disqualifies employee from ADA coverage
Case name: Ferriera v. Illinois Department of Transportation, No. 07-3141 (C.D. Ill. 03/23/09).
The U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois granted summary judgment to the Illinois Department of Transportation in a former employee's Americans with Disabilities Act Title I suit.
What it means:
An employee who sustains a work-related injury and is unable to perform essential functions of his job as a result may not qualify for coverage under the ADA because he is no longer a qualified individual as defined by the statute.
A stationary engineer for the Illinois Department of Transportation injured his right knee, left elbow and both shoulders at work. He job duties included being responsible for maintaining all the equipment at the DOT headquarters, and his essential functions required manual labor, walking, squatting, lifting and climbing. The engineer's work restrictions required him to be permanently restricted in performing these manual activities. The DOT allowed him to work light duty temporarily but eventually required him to perform all maintenance duties. When he was injured again, the DOT required him to go on nonoccupational leave of absence, and he never returned to work.
The engineer sued under ADA Title I for failure to accommodate his disability. The District Court granted summary judgment to the DOT. The court held that the engineer was not a qualified individual with a disability because he could not fulfill his job's essential functions. The engineer argued that he could perform his essential functions with accommodation. However, the court pointed out that asking the DOT to eliminate essential duties (all work involving physical exertion) or to assign other employees to perform the duties the engineer couldn't perform as accommodations was not reasonable under the ADA. Even if the DOT had allowed the engineer to temporarily avoid the duties outside his medical restrictions, it was not obligated to continue to do so indefinitely, according to the court.
May 18, 2009
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