Court Decisions & Disability Issues Briefs
A project of the Southeast ADA Center and Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) at Syracuse University

Holly v. Clairson Industries, L.L.C.

Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals
No. 492 F.3D 1247
July 19, 2007

Facts of the Case

Plaintiff Tommy Holly worked as a mold polisher for Clairson Industries. Holly's paraplegia affected his punctuality (usually by a minute or two, occasionally by 30 minutes or more), a factor his employer unofficially accommodated for fifteen years. At the suggestion of a newly-hired employee benefits specialist, Clairson instituted a new "no-fault" attendance policy, where instances of absence or tardiness accrued until they reached a maximum, at which point the employee was discharged. Holly's supervisors testified that strict punctuality was not essential to Holly's position and that Holly consistently completed his work and made up any lost time by working late. Holly's tardy occurrences quickly exceeded the limit and he was terminated. Holly brought suit against his former employer alleging failure to accommodate his disability in violation of the ADA.

Issues of the Case

  1. Whether strict punctuality pursuant to Clairson's employee policy was an essential function of Holly's job, in turn determining whether Holly is a "qualified individual" within the meaning of the ADA, and thus entitled to a reasonable accommodation from his employer.

Arguments & Analysis

1. Plaintiff Holly alleges that Clairson failed to accommodate Holly's disability, which led to his termination.

Clairson responded that Holly's claims must fail because Holly is not a "qualified individual" who can perform the essential functions of his job, and therefore outside the protection of the ADA. Clairson contends that punctuality is an essential function of Holly's job; and should Holly's disability prevent him from performing that function, the ADA imposes no obligation on Clairson to make an accommodation. However, Holly's supervisors testified that Holly's job was not time-sensitive, and strict punctuality was not essential.

2. Upon examining the record, the court determined that the consequences of not requiring Holly to perform the function of strict punctuality, on the facts of the case at hand, were generally minimal.

The court thus determined that strict punctuality as defined by Clairson's employee policy was not an essential function of Holly's job, therefore rendering Holly a "qualified individual" entitled to ADA protection.

Rulings

Strict punctuality, as defined by defendant's employee policy, does not as a matter of law constitute an essential job function in the context of plaintiff's job as a mold polisher, where plaintiff performed his job in a competent and prompt manner; therefore, plaintiff was a qualified individual within the scope of the ADA.

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Disclaimer:

These materials do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon in any individual case. Please consult an attorney licensed in your state for legal advice and/or representation. These materials were prepared by the legal research staff of the Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) at Syracuse University in partnership with the Southeast ADA Center to highlight legal and policy developments relevant to civil rights protections and the impact of court decisions in the Southeast Region under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These materials are based on federal disability rights laws and court decisions in effect at the time of publication. Federal and state disability rights law can change at any time.  In addition, state and local laws and regulations may provide different or additional protections. Materials are intended solely as informal guidance, and are neither a determination of your legal rights nor responsibilities under the ADA or other federal, state, and local laws, nor binding on any agency with enforcement responsibility under the ADA. The accuracy of any information contained herein is not warranted. Any links to external websites are provided as a courtesy and are not intended to nor do they constitute an endorsement of the linked materials.

Southeast ADA Center

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