When an employee has an injury or disability, the ADA requires employers to grant reasonable accommodations.
But what happens when the employee’s injury prevents them from performing an essential part of their job?
Janet Kotaska worked for FedEx in Illinois when she injured herself. Kotaska eventually returned to work, but she was unable to lift more than 15 pounds over her head.
Her job description required her to lift up to 75 pounds. Since Kotaska couldn’t do this, and there was no accommodation available, FedEx terminated her.
Kotaska sued, claiming an ADA violation. She argued that while the official job description required delivery people to lift up to 75 pounds, most packages she delivered were around 15 pounds.
However, the 7th Circuit ruled against Kotaska. It said the debate over the lifting requirement was irrelevant. Kotaska’s lifting restrictions were so stringent she wasn’t ADA-protected, the court said.
The 7th Circuit agreed with the company that there was no reasonable accommodation for Kotaska. Her firing didn’t violate the ADA.
This case reinforces that employers aren’t expected to remove or alter essential job functions to accommodate an injured worker.
Cite: Kotaska v. Federal Express, 7/17/20.