Yesterday, I read about a woman who alleged that her former employer violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when it fired her from her “armed security guard” position because of a medical condition. This notwithstanding that, in her complaint, the plaintiff admitted to being presented with pictures taken of her which appeared to show her sleeping on the job. In response, the plaintiff told the company that she was taking medication that made her “sleepy.”
Does this sound familiar?
Well, it should, because we’ve covered this before. An employee who, because is a disability, may have a tendency to fall asleep at work, could still be qualified to perform the essential functions of the job.
However, in her complaint, the plaintiff alleged that she was a model employee, with excellent performance reviews and no write-ups. Further, she claimed that other non-disabled company employees were caught “sleeping at their posts” … and promoted. Moreover, she alleged that “break time” and “other work shifts . . . would have ameliorated the impact of [her] medication on [her] work.”
Based on the foregoing, in this opinion, the court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss.
Under the ADA, a person is a “qualified individual” so long as she can perform essential job functions “with or without reasonable accommodation.” Taking the plaintiff’s word about her overall job history and accommodation possibilities, the Court opined that the plaintiff had presented enough “facts” to demonstrate that she is qualified under the ADA — at least based on her Complaint.
Now look, there could be any number of facts alleged in the Complaint that don’t hold up in discovery. For example, there may not be any evidence, other than the plaintiff’s say-so, that other employees slept on the job and were later promoted.
But, for you guys out there, this case provides two lessons. First, try to treat all of your employees equally. Second, if an employee comes to you and requests a reasonable accommodation, don’t give it short shrift. Not even the sleepy armed security guard. Make sure to have a good faith interactive dialogue. And only after you have determined that there are no reasonable accommodations should you consider an employee with a disability unqualified for the position.