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9th Circuit Denies Summary Judgment to Hawaii Employer, Job Description Not Enough to Establish “Essential Job Function”

Posted Tuesday, August 7, 2018 6:27 am

In a memorandum opinion filed on July 2, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reminded employers that the evidence of an essential job function includes, but is not limited to the job description.  When determining whether a requirement is an essential job function for purposes of disability discrimination, the court may look to testimony of the actual job requirements, in addition to the job description.

In Pfendler v. Liberty Dialysis-Hawaii (July 2, 2018), as a consequence of a non-work injury, the employee who worked as a Dialysis Technical Specialist was subject to a 30-50 pound lifting restriction.  At issue in this case was whether the employer’s 75 pound lifting requirement was an essential function of the job.

The appellate court found that summary judgement was inappropriate because there was a material dispute about the job’s lifting requirement.  Although the employer relied on its written job description that required a minimum lifting requirement of 75 pounds, the employee’s testimony indicated that he actually lifted a maximum of 40 pounds at work.  The employee testified that he never had to lift a dialysis recliner but only had to tilt it, a task requiring lifting only 40 pounds.

A video of oral arguments for this appeal is available here

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