On October 15, 2014, the 7th Circuit affirmed summary judgment in a Title VII and ADA action on the basis that the plaintiff--a part-owner of the defendant business--was not an employee and therefore not covered by Title VII or the ADA. Bluestein v. Central Wisconsin Anesthesiology, No. 13-3724 (7th Cir. 10-15-2014). In order to be entitled to protection under Title VII, a person must be an employee of an employer that employs 15 or more employees. In Bluestein, the plaintiff filed a Title VII and ADA lawsuit against a company in which she was a partner/shareholder and member of the Board of Directors. She had an equal right to vote on all Board matters, shared equally in the profits and liabilities of the company, participated in hiring and firing decisions, and had an equal right to influence employment policies.
ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)
On October 16, 2014, the 7th Circuit reversed summary judgment in favor of the employer in an Americans with Disabilities Act failure-to-accommodate case. Kauffman v. Petersen Health Care, No. 13-3661 (7th Cir., 10-16-2014). The ADA prohibits an employer from discriminating against a qualified individual with a disability--an individual who can perform the essential functions of his or her job with or without a reasonable accommodation. The ADA defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. An employer has a duty to provide a qualified individual who has a disability with a reasonable accommodation that would enable him or her to perform the essential functions of his or her job, as long as the accommodation does not impose an undue hardship on the employer. When an employee asks for an accommodation because of a disability, the employer must engage in an interactive process with the employee to determine a reasonable accommodation under the circumstances.
On July 17, 2014, the 7th Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the employer in an ADA failure-to-accommodate case. Reeves v. Jewel Food Stores, Inc., No. 13-3782 (7-17-2014). In order to establish a failure-to-accommodate claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act, an employee must demonstrate that: (1) he or she is a qualified individual with a disability; (2) the employer was aware of the disability; and (3) the employer failed to reasonably accommodate the disability. A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to the work environment that enables a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of his or her job. Once an employee requests a reasonable accommodation, the employer is required to engage in a flexible interactive process to identify the necessary accommodations. If the employee does not provide sufficient information to the employer to determine the necessary accommodations, the employer cannot be held liable for failure-to-accommodate under the ADA.
On May 28, 2014, the 7th Circuit affirmed summary judgment in an Americans with Disabilities Act case, in which the plaintiff alleged failure-to-accommodate and disparate treatment. Bunn v. Khoury Enterprises, Inc., No. 13-2292 (May 28, 2014). The opinion states the elements and methods of proof for ADA failure-to-accommodate and disparate treatment claims. The ADA provides that a covered employer shall not discriminate against a qualified individual on the basis of disability. Discrimination includes not making reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability, unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation its business. The 7th Circuit has established a three-part test for failure-to-accommodate claims: (1) the employee is a qualified individual with a disability; (2) the employer is aware of the employee's disability; and (3) the employer failed to reasonably accommodate the disability.