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.
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.
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.
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.