Student Note on Reasonable Accommodation in "Regarded As" Cases
Just published: Sarah J. Parrot, Note, The ADA and Reasonable Accommodation of Employees Regarded As Disabled: Statutory Fact or Bizarre Fiction?, 67 Ohio St. L.J. 1495 (2006). The abstract:
The debate continues as to whether employers are required by the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") to provide reasonable accommodation for employees who they regard as disabled. The issue, which was recently rekindled after the Tenth and Eleventh Circuits joined the debate, has created a significant split among the federal circuit courts. The Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Ninth Circuits have held that employers have no duty to accommodate employees regarded as disabled. The primary basis for their position is that such a rule prevents the "bizarre" result of requiring employers to accommodate disabilities that do not in fact exist. However, the First, Third, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits have held that employers must accommodate perceived disabilities. In determining that a duty to accommodate is consistent with the ADA's plain language and its purpose of eradicating disability-based discrimination, these courts have also suggested that their rule facilitates a practical employer-employee relationship, one which helps to disabuse employers of mistaken perceptions. This Note contends that employers should be required to provide reasonable accommodation for employees regarded as disabled, and that liability for failure to accommodate should be imposed in most cases.In accordance with the plain language and purposes of the ADA, a case-by-case approach best achieves the ADA's basic purposes of eliminating disability-based discrimination and promoting equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities.