Last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia revived a claim raised by a former teacher of a nonprofit afterschool program that was dismissed in 2014.
In 2013, Brien Hill began working for Associates for Renewal in Education Inc. (ARE), a non-profit that provides both care and education programs to underserved children and adults. Hill was employed by ARE as a teacher and program aide in their three-story building located in Washington, D.C. Due to a surgery that he underwent that resulted in the amputation of his leg, Hill uses a prosthetic leg. Because of this, he requested accommodations for his disability, including being assigned a classroom on a lower level of the building and for a classroom aide to assist him in supervising students.
Hill’s accommodations were granted by ARE up until August 2007 when Hill was reassigned to a classroom on the third floor of the building with no assistance of a classroom aide. Hill alleges that he expressed his concerns regarding these changes and requested to be placed back on a lower level floor and have an aide. He states that despite making these requests daily throughout the school year, the accommodations were never provided and he remained the only teacher in the program without an aide. Around this time, Hill began to have disciplinary issues at work and was changed to a part-time position due to his “excessive tardiness and inconsistent call-ins.” His supervisor suggested that he be terminated on the same day that Hill requested a review of his denied accommodations. It was shortly after that when Hill was fully terminated from his position at ARE.
Hill then sued ARE claiming it of violating the ADA by refusing to both place him on a lower floor of the building and for refusing to provide him with a classroom aide and for creating a hostile work environment. In 2014, the U.S. District Judge John Bates granted summary judgment in favor of ARE on the hostile work environment claim and the claim regarding the request of a classroom aide. The remaining claim involving the request to be placed on a lower floor was sent to the jury and Hill was awarded $40,000.
Four years later, the 9th Circuit brought back the case. While the court decided to decline the revival of Hill’s hostile work environment claim for failure to allege severe and pervasive conduct by ARE, it did bring back his claim involving the denial of a classroom aide. Circuit Judge Robert Wilkins stated,
a reasonable jury could find that if ARE provided Hill a classroom aide as it did for his colleagues, that aide could help Hill supervise students in the classroom and during outdoor activities, reducing his need for prolonged standing and mitigating the alleged “hazard of pain and bruising".
The three-judge panel unanimously agreed that Hill had adequately alleged that an aide was appropriate accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act because of the extreme pain that was associated with standing on a prosthetic leg for long period of time.