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U.S. Court of Appeals Rules: ADA Requires Request from Employee for Reasonable Accommodation

As a federal law, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is one of the most litigated laws that protects people from discriminatory practices. While the ADA does provide all kinds of protection, these are not automatic for anyone who is disabled. A recent federal court case demonstrated that fact. Under ADA, people with disabilities must go through a certain procedure in order to file a lawsuit.

Disability%2055444138-001.jpgIn order to prove that someone with disabilities was discriminated against under ADA, employees must show three elements have occurred. First,the employee has to provide evidence that he has a disability. In addition, the employee must show that he is qualified to perform the functions of the job as necessary. Lastly, disabled employees must show that he has suffered discrimination based on the disability.

In a court case brought up to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals named Dinse v. Carlisle Foodservice, Douglas Dinse was a product engineer for Carlisle Foodservice Products suing his employer after he was terminated due to poor performance. This was allegedly because Mr. Dinse had serious health problems. Mr. Dinse decided to sue because he said that he was discriminated against because his employer failed to provide reasonable accommodations to help with his illness. The 10th circuit affirmed the district court’s holding that employers only had to provide accommodations under ADA if the employee made an adequate request for reasonable accommodation.

The request lets an employer know that that the employee is disabled and needs the accommodation. Mr. Dinse had requested a laptop in order to perform his work while he recovered from surgery, but he didn’t indicate that the request was because of the injury. Since Mr. Dinse did not make the right type of request under ADA, the 10th Court affirmed the district court’s decision in favor of the defendant, Carlisle Foodservice.

Even though an employer may be aware that an employee is disabled, the company isn’t allowed to be held liable under ADA unless the employee goes through the proper channels to report that they have a disability. They have to formally request a reasonable accommodation for their disability as Mr. Dinse found out when he lost his case.

From the Court documents:

“In this case, it is true that Carlisle never engaged Mr. Dinse in an interactive process, nor provided him with a reasonable accommodation. But we conclude based on the undisputed evidence that Mr. Dinse never asked Carlisle for an accommodation.”

“In other words, it is the request for an accommodation for an employee’s disability that triggers an employer’s duty to engage in the interactive process, not an awareness of a disability that may (or may not) necessitate an accommodation.”

“Dinse failed to provide Carlisle with legally adequate notice of his desire for an accommodation. As a consequence, Carlisle had no legal duty to attempt to provide Mr. Dinse a reasonable accommodation. And, as Mr. Dinse acknowledges, he was not qualified-without an accommodation-to perform his job.”