In this ever-litigious society of ours, it is comforting to see reason prevail on occasion, and the court's recent decision in Summers v. Target Corporation, Case No. 18-C-32 (E.D. Wis. 2019) is a good example. In Summers, an employee contended that his supervisor caused him anxiety, stress, palpitations and panic disorders, for which he was prescribed anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication. He took a medical leave and his therapist recommended that he be transferred to another location (and hence, a new supervisor) as an accommodation of his condition. When Target refused, he resigned and sued for failure to accommodate under the ADA.
As in any case under the ADA, the court first addressed whether Summers had a disability within the meaning of the law - and found decidedly to the contrary, given that Summers' alleged disability only limited him from working for this particular supervisor and not a class of jobs in general: "The fact that [Summers] is unable to work for a particular supervisor, whether because of anxiety or extreme dislike, is not a disability within the meaning of the ADA." In other words, all his condition limited was his ability to work with the supervisor he did not like.
Next, although it found that Summers did not have a disability, the court went on to address whether his requested accommodation, transfer to a new location, was reasonable - and its response was even more definitive: "[T]he requested accommodation is not reasonable because Summers is essentially trying to dictate who supervises him and refusing to return to work absent satisfaction of that demand."
Little under the law is ever black and white, and there are rarely ever any bright lines to provide guidance, especially when litigation is being threatened. This is also why it is important for HR professionals to be aware of decisions like Summers, particularly when faced with seemingly ridiculous demands. Of course, it is also why it is important to have a good employment attorney on speed dial.
If you have questions about the ADA, the duty to accommodate, or dealing with difficult employees in general, feel free to contact Wessels Sherman Attorney Alan E. Seneczko at (262) 560-9696, or [email protected]. Or, just put him on speed dial.