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Seventh Circuit concludes that Employee gets Trial on whether Employer must do more than Request Medical Information to fulfill Interactive Process Obligations

Posted Thursday, January 23, 2014 6:20 pm

The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently held that an employee with a pattern of sleeping on the job was entitled to a trial on her disability discrimination claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The employee worked as a Forming Inspector/Packer on the night shift and was disciplined several times for sleeping on the job.  After being suspended for this misconduct, t he employee indicated that her sleep issues related to a medication her doctor had prescribed.  When she was found sleeping on the job again, she was issued a final warning and suspended pending termination.  While on suspension, the employee informed the company that her sleep issues may relate to a medical condition.  While the company initiated an interactive process by having the employee provide information from her physician, it ultimately decided to terminate her for performance issues related to sleeping at work.  The employee filed suit claiming in part that the company failed to provide reasonable accommodation and improperly terminated her under the ADA.  The district court granted the employer's motion for summary judgment on this claim on the basis that the initial termination decision was made before the company had knowledge of any disability.  The employee appealed.


In deciding that the district court's grant of summary judgment to the employer was improper, the Seventh Circuit concluded that there was insufficient evidence showing that there was a final decision to terminate and that the employee received notice of that termination decision prior to informing the company of her medical condition.  The court further reasoned that there was evidence suggesting that the employer failed to provide a reasonable accommodation to the employee in failing to follow up on the medical information her physician had provided prior to terminating her.  Spurling v. C&M Fine Pack, Inc.

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