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8th Circuit: Overtime Can Be an Essential Function of the Job

Published by and on June 18, 2018

Court rules that UPS did not fail to accommodate when a former driver requested restricted work hours and another work position, holding that former driver was not qualified for the requested position because overtime was an essential function of the job.

On May 11, 2018, the Eighth Circuit announced that UPS did not discriminate against an ex-driver after it refused to accommodate the driver’s requested restricted eight-hour workday because overtime was an essential function of the job. The Court’s opinion highlights the fact-specific nature of claims and analysis under the American with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and state counterparts. This decision also illustrates the importance of written job descriptions, the interactive process, and uniform application of policies for employers.

In Faidley v. UPS, Inc., No. 16-1073 (8th Cir. May 11, 2018) (en banc), a former driver, Jerry Faidley, sued his former employer, United Parcel Service of America, Inc. (“UPS”), claiming violations of the Iowa Civil Rights Act (“ICRA”). Faidley alleged that UPS violated the ICRA when it placed him on medical leave and then failed to reasonably accommodate his physical disability. After removal to federal court and additional claims of ADA discrimination by Faidley, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa granted summary judgment for UPS. Upon Faidley’s appeal, a panel of judges sitting for the Eighth Circuit reversed in part and remanded the case back to the District Court. The Eighth Circuit granted rehearing en banc, ultimately affirming the District Court’s opinion and holding that Faidley was not a qualified individual under the ADA.

Under both ADA and ICRA, a “qualified individual” is a person who, with or without accommodation, can perform the essential functions of an employment positions either held or desired. 42 U.S.C. § 12111(8); Kallail v. Alliant Energy Corp. Servs., Inc., 691 F,3d 925, 930 (8th Cir. 2012). While UPS did not dispute that Faidley was disabled, as defined under ADA and ICRA, UPS contested that Faidley was a qualified individual under the statutes because Faidley was unable to perform the essential functions as a carrier driver. Here. The Court looked to the “employer’s judgment, its written job description, the terms of any applicable collective bargaining agreement, and the consequences of not requiring the incumbent to perform the function.” Faidley, No. 16-1073 at 10. Although, Faidley could normally perform his job within the medically restricted eight hours, he was unable to work overtime hours, as his doctor specifically restricted Faidley from performing work beyond eight hour shifts. Per UPS’ job relevant job descriptions, work policies and collective bargaining agreements, the ability to work overtime was an essential function of the driver positions sought by Faidley. As the driver jobs required overtime, Faidley was unqualified for the positions, and UPS was not required to accommodate his restriction by altering an essential function of a job.

Faidley also applied for an alternative position as “feeder driver,” which required less physical strain but still required overtime work. Because Faidley was unable to perform the required overtime hours, UPS did not offer the feeder driver position to Faidley. Further, UPS met with Faidley and identified other positions for which Faidley was qualified, and encouraged him to bid on those positions. Faidley, however, either lacked seniority for those positions or there were no vacancies. The Court stated that UPS was under no obligation pursuant to the ADA or otherwise to pursue Faidley’s preferred accommodations by displacing other employees or by altering essential functions of a job. The Court further stated that UPS fulfilled its duties under ADA and ICRA by repeatedly offering reasonable positions that were available regardless of Faidley’s first choice. Ultimately, Fiadley failed to overcome the burden of proving UPS failed to accommodate or discriminated against him in violation of ADA or ICRA.

Welter Insight

The Eight Circuit opinion in Faidley enforces the notion that the ADA does not require an employer to remove or amend essential functions of a job to comply with a requested disability accommodation. Employers should remain vigilant, however, when drafting and maintaining job descriptions to include all essential functions that are relevant during the ADA interactive process. Employers should further consider requiring employees to review and sign off on official job descriptions.

It should be noted that employers cannot rely solely on written job descriptions when addressing reasonable accommodation issues. Employers must also engage in the interactive process with an employee requesting an accommodation. Employers should analyze whether the specifically requested accommodation alters an essential function of the job or creates a demonstrable undue burden, or if denial of the requested accommodation is consistent with company practices. If denying an employee’s requested accommodation is inconsistent with company practices or policies, employers should think twice and seek counsel before denying the accommodation.

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