Vigilant Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law, HR, safety & workers' comp

Aug 26, 2010

Difficulty with nighttime commute requires ADA accommodation


When a vision impairment prevented a wine steward from safely driving at night, her employer should have considered reasonable accommodations, ruled the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Her impairment was a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because an average person could safely drive and walk outside after dark, but she could not. The employee requested a modified schedule in the fall and winter months so she could leave work while it was still light. Her employer, Fred Meyer, granted her request during her first year of employment, but denied it the following year, even though she increased wine sales and improved the stores ranking while working the modified schedule. The court sent the case on for trial to determine whether the company violated the ADA (Livingston v. Fred Meyer Stores, Inc., 9th Cir, July 2010, unpublished opinion).

Tips: The Ninth Circuit was very clear that the duty to accommodate a disability extends to commute-related limitations. Be prepared to discuss accommodation options if an employee gives a medical reason for being unable to work your desired schedule. You need not select the employees preferred accommodation as long as you choose one that is effective. If you really want the employee to work a certain schedule, explore alternative transportation options. For further guidance, see our Legal Guide, ADA: Reasonable Accommodation and the Interactive Process (1078).

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