The Seventh Circuit allowed an employee to survive summary judgment on a pre-ADAAA reasonable accommodation disability claim (Miller v. Illinois Dept. Transp.decided 5/10/11). The employee had a fear of heights which prevented him from climbing on a bridge repair crew. Prior to his termination, the workers on his crew had been informally accommodating his climbing limitation by switching out duties so that someone else would climb for him. After the employee was formally diagnosed with acrophobia he was terminated. The employee sued alleging that he should have been accommodated to allow other employees to climb for him. The Seventh Circuit acknowledged that it had held in the past that an employer is not required to accommodate an employee in an essential function of his job by having someone else do the task for him. However, in this case, the Court held that since it had been the normal course for individual members of the crew to substitute and reassign tasks among themselves according to individual abilities and limitations, a jury should have been able to consider the employee’s actual work environment and the past flexibility in delegating tasks in deciding whether the employee’s request was a reasonable accommodation. These reasonable accommodation cases are fact intensive and can be highly variable according to each situation. Also, the Seventh Circuit held that the employer had regarded the employee as disabled by precluding him from doing any job for them, which included a broad range of other jobs.
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