In the court case of Emory v. AstraZeneca the Circuit Court decided in favor of Emory against his employer. The Judge pointed out that even though Emory overcame his disability and performed his job responsibilities through sheer force of will, Emory should still be considered disabled because of the obstacles that his disability caused. Emory, who was born with cerebral palsy, has the I.Q. of 77, along with a 50% permanent impairment to his upper body and 25% impairment to his lower body, needs assistance when answering questions and learning new skills, overcame his disability by graduating from high school, becoming a volunteer firefighter, started a cleaning service with a partner, worked for AstraZeneca for over 20 years and was temporarily assigned as a second shift supervisor. AstraZeneca used the facts of his life to try and prove that Emory overcame his disability and could function as a worker because of these accomplishments.The District Court concluded: “The question is not whether a handicapped person accomplishes (his) goals, but whether (he) encounters significant handicap-related obstacles in doing so. Further, when compared to others, his learning impairments are clearly severe.”It’s amazing that the company would try to use Emory’s accomplishments against him. The fact remains, because of his limitations, both physically and mentally, he is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).By supplying Emory a calculator and voice activated software to assist him with writing, spelling and grammar, Emory would be able to successfully perform his job. These tools would not cause an undo hardship to AstraZeneca. DB
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Posted bySue and Deniseat6:36 PM
The HR Guysaid…
Denise, excellent post!The parties did not dispute that cerebral palsy is an impairment.
The plaintiff identified at least two major life activities – performing manual tasks and learning – that were substantially limited due to his condition. The court emphasized that the required showing is substantial limitation, not utter inability to perform one or more major life activities. More controversially, the court also states that while the existence of a disability must be assessed in light of mitigating measures employed, “the essence of the inquiry regards comparing the conditions, manner, or duration under which the average person in the general population can perform the major life activity at issue with those under which an impaired plaintiff must perform.”The strongest evidence that he is “qualified is that he served as “acting Second Shift Supervisor” for almost two years. There were criticisms of his performance during this period, but the company consistently rejected his requests for accommodations that he believed would have enabled him to perform the essential functions of the job. Since he served as acting supervisor for two years, it does not appear that there are neutral, job-related requirements for the position that he does not possess. Nor is this a case where the employee’s condition arguably poses a direct threat to his own health and safety or that of others. Therefore, if he is not “qualified” it is because he cannot perform the essential functions of the job even with reasonable accommodations.All of the accommodations that he previously proposed to the company – including using a calculator, receiving a learning assessment, and installing voice activated software – would generally be regarded as reasonable and should in no way impose an undue hardship on this large, profitable employer. Working with a job coach might also provide the type of support that he needs to successfully complete his job. This is a highly motivated individual who has exhibited enormous tenacity. There is every reason to believe that with sufficient support he would do the job well.