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Refusing Driving Accommodations Bars Employee ADA Lawsuit

March 9, 2015
Source: Business Insurance

An employee who refused to agree to a reasonable accommodation offered him by his employer to compensate for his inability to drive cannot proceed with his disability discrimination charge, a federal appeals court said Monday in upholding a lower-court ruling.

Mark Minnihan had worked for more than 30 years in New York-based Mediacom Communications Corp. Ames, Iowa, facility, including the last 10 as a technical operations supervisor, according to the ruling by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis in Mark Minnhan v. Mediacom Communications Corp.

His job responsibilities included driving to a job site after a technician completed a job to inspect the work of the technician, as well as the homes of customers following customer complaints, according to the ruling.

In December 2009, Mr. Minnihan experienced the first of three seizures, each of which prohibited him under Iowa law from driving until six months had elapsed without an episode.

The company exempted him from driving off and on for a 10-month period.

The company eventually offered Mr. Minnihan a non-driving job, which required him to do about a 30-minute commute to the Des Moines facility. Mediacom sent him the name of another company employee with whom he could get a ride to the Des Moines site, and also provided him with list of websites that contained information on ride shares and possible transportation between Ames and Des Moines, said the ruling.

It then completed paperwork transferring him to the Des Moines facility, but Mr. Minnihan neither reported for the position nor applied for medical leave, and he was terminated in May 2011.

Mr. Minnihan filed suit against Mediacom, charging violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 and state law. The U.S. district court in Des Moines dismissed the case.

A three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit upheld the lower-court ruling.

“It is undisputed that Mediacom considered driving an essential function” of the positon, said the ruling. Furthermore, the company did engage in an interactive process to find him another position and offered him a reasonable accommodation, said the ruling.

“In order for an employee to prevail on an ADA claim where the employer has offered the employee reassignment as a reasonable accommodation,” the employee must offer evidence showing the offered position was inferior to the former job, and that there was an open position for a comparable job for which the employee was qualified, said the ruling. But Mr. Minnihan did not do this, said the ruling, in upholding the case dismissal.

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