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ADA Blog #159 Update on EEOC’s Lawsuit Against AutoZone (re: Blog #49, #101)

Providing reasonable accommodation is the cornerstone of the #ADA. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has affirmed a $424,000 judgment (including $9,000 in costs) against #AutoZone, Inc. for violating the ADA).  At trial, the #EEOC presented evidence that the company's managers insisted that the Parts Sales Manager mop floors at the end of the day, an activity that aggravated his back impairment and caused intense pain.

It’s baffling why would this employee would be fired when the store manager described him as a good salesman who could 'sell ice cubes to an Eskimo,' and noted that customers would specifically ask for his assistance. In fact, this employee averaged the highest sales per customer among the employees at his store in 2003." The EEOC presented evidence that despite repeated requests from #Shepherd and his doctor, company officials refused to eliminate the mopping assignments, eventually causing serious injury.

It’s important that employers clearly understand the difference between essential and non-essential (marginal) job functions. The ADA’s requirement for employers to make reasonable accommodations may include the elimination or modification of a non-essential job duty, or the transfer of a non-essential job duty to another employee.

This case demonstrates risk for companies that disregard the underlying purpose of the ADA. The employee was awarded compensatory damages for physical and emotional pain and suffering & lost wages. In addition, AutoZone was assessed $9,000 in litigation costs.

Take immediate action to ensure your company understands its obligations to provide reasonable accommodation. Effective policies & procedures should be in place & reviewed on a regular basis as a routine risk management assessment.

Shelley

This information should not be construed as “legal advice” for a particular set of facts or circumstances. It is intended only to be a practical guide for participants familiar with this subject. Users should seek appropriate legal advice tailored to address their specific situation.