A recent case decided by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals underscores why it is important for employers and human resource professionals to understand and follow the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
In Swanson v. Village of Flossmoor, the plaintiff/employee, Mark Swanson, resigned from the Village of Flossmoor’s police department after suffering two strokes, six weeks apart, the second of which left him unable to perform his duties as a police detective.
Swanson filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging violations of the ADA. Specifically, the plaintiff/employee alleged that the Village violated the ADA’s reasonable accommodation requirement by not permitting him to work exclusively at a desk position when he returned to work from his first stroke. The court rejected this argument finding that the plaintiff/employee’s request for "light duty"/desk position did not match his physician's suggestion of "part-time" work, and that defendant sufficiently accommodated plaintiff's disability by allowing him to perform his normal duties on part-time basis and to use his accrued medical leave for the balance of his work schedule.
In addition, the court found that plaintiff/employee could not assert any ADA claim arising out of his second stroke, where plaintiff's resignation letter indicated that his second stroke rendered him completely unable to resume his detective job duties.
In the end, the court ruled in favor of the employer and upheld the summary judgment entered by the lower court. A review of this case decision illustrates the importance of keeping a written record of requests for accommodations including any physician letters submitted to the employer as well as the employer’s response and efforts to provide an employee a reasonable accommodation.