The United States District Court of the Eastern District of Arkansas has issued a judgment that significantly expands the scope of reasonable accommodation required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in its jurisdiction. This judgment requires that employers not only provide reasonable accommodation for workers to perform their professional duties, but also enjoy the same benefits and privileges as their colleagues.
This case began when the plaintiff, an engineer with a major railroad company, requested housing to bring a service animal, particularly a rottweiler, to work to treat symptoms of PTSD caused by a brain injury he was in the service line had suffered Iraq. According to the employee, this accommodation would enable them to cope with symptoms such as severe migraines, anxiety, flashbacks, and depression. This included recognizing the symptoms that indicate the onset of a migraine and reminding the employee of any medication that would prevent it from happening entirely.
The employer has examined the application; However, they found that the applicant did her job exceptionally well and did not need a service animal to safely perform her job duties. This is a fact that the plaintiff herself admitted in court, but also states that it would help them perform these duties more conveniently.
Typically, most states’ ADA and similar laws have been construed to require employers to provide workers with physical or mental disabilities with reasonable accommodation to enable them to perform the essential functions of a job. In order to reject an employee’s application for such placement, the employer must be able to prove that the application constitutes undue hardship.
This means that a request for reasonable accommodation is generally due to an employee’s inability to safely meet the employer’s expectations for the performance of the essential functions of his job. In this case, however, the employee was only concerned about the possibility of what could happen without him.
The court found that the ADA did not require reasonable accommodation to serve only essential professional functions, but also to provide an employee with the same benefits and privileges that similar employees without disabilities enjoy. The court ordered the railroad company to allow the plaintiff to bring the service dog and pay $ 250,000 in compensation.
This decision will significantly expand the scope of ADA within that district and require employers to consider requests for accommodation in other ways. This means that they not only have to check whether a request enables an employee to carry out his or her essential functions, but also whether it enables them to enjoy the same advantages and privileges as other employees.