DDC: Under Rehab Act, Employment Accommodation May Be Required Even if Not Necessary to Enable Plaintiff to Do the Job
Yesterday, Judge Royce Lamberth of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued an opinion denying the defendant's motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff's Rehabilitation Act claim in Loya v. Sebelius, --- F.Supp.2d ----, 2012 WL 52265 (D.D.C., Jan. 12, 2012). Loya, who has Type I diabetes, argued that the defendant federal employer violated the Rehabilitation Act by assigning her in an office building that required her to walk too long a distance to frequent meetings. She contended that the employer should have accommodated her by assigning her to an office in the building where her meetings often took place (and where she formerly had an office). The court concluded that this accommodation claim presented triable issues of fact. It's mostly a factbound opinion, but there is an interesting legal nugget in it. The defendant argued that Loya was not entitled to an accommodation because she was evidently able to walk between the two buildings, even if evidence suggested that she faced some risk of hypo- or hyperglycemia in doing so. According to the defendant, an employer is required to provide an accommodation only when that accommodation is necessary for the plaintiff employee to do her job. The court rejected that argument: "A reasonable jury could therefore find that, although a reassignment to the Portals building may not have been strictly necessary for Loya to perform her job, it would nonetheless have 'assist[ed]' Loya 'in performing the duties of [her] job,' 29 C.F.R. app. § 1630.9, by reducing her risk of hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia and so assisting her in performing the job duties that (a reasonable jury could find) required her to travel between buildings."