Vacation Thread: The Zamboni-Drivin’ Disability-Discriminatin’ Lawsuit

-Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom Walt Disney World - panoramio.jpg

By Ivan Curra, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

(Not pictured: Eric Meyer; probably off grabbing a Dole Whip (adult version) and a turkey leg).

Folks, the blog posts may not be as fast and furious (i.e., daily) as usual this week. That’s because, yes, I am vacationing with the family in Disney World.

If any burglar is reading this, well, “NERD!”

But, I’ll try to pump out a few posts between Space Mountain and the Country Bear Jamboree.

For example, it’s not that often that I get to write about Zambonis — especially the intersection between Zamboinis and employment law — on this blog. What’s a Zamboni, you ask? It’s a machine that smooths the surface of ice on a rink.

You see, a former Zamboni operator at a skating rink in Indiana sued his employer, alleging that the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

What was the violation?

Well, apparently, the plaintiff was injured on the job in early 2015. He returned to work in May with certain medical restrictions, including the requirement that he work sitting down. The rink tried to accommodate him — the ADA requires reasonable accommodations for someone with a disability to enable that person to perform the essential functions of the job — by assigning him to the task of skate sharpening. The employer asserted that skate sharpening is a job that can be accomplished from a seated position; the plaintiff disagreed but never told his employer that skate sharpening did not meet his restrictions. He also alleges that there were a few times when he was caught sitting down to rest and was told to get back to work.

The plaintiff claimed that the company failed to accommodate his disability. Both an Indiana federal court and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. Cue the Seventh Circuit.

Identifying reasonable accommodations for a disabled employee requires both employer and employee to engage in a flexible, interactive process. If an employee does not provide sufficient information to the employer to determine the necessary accommodations, the employer cannot be held liable for failing to accommodate the disabled employee….[Plaintiff] acknowledges that he did not make [Defendant] aware of his belief that his skate sharpening assignment didn’t comport with his medical restrictions. This is a textbook example…

What’s your takeaway?

Consider developing an ADA accommodation checklist for yourself and a form for your employees to complete when they identify a disability and seek accommodation. The Job Accommodation Network has a bunch of forms and checklists from which to choose. You can view them here.

Just be careful that you tailor your request for medical information to the nature of disability (as opposed to a full medical history).


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