E-Alert Case Updates
U.S. District Court Examines the Reasonable Accommodation Requirement under the ADA
Karen M. Roberts v. Bayhealth Medical Center, Inc.
In Karen M. Roberts v. Bayhealth Medical Center, Inc., a case involving a Motion for Summary Judgment in a federal disability discrimination lawsuit, the United States District Court for the District of Delaware concluded that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether Defendant provided a reasonable accommodation to the extent required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et. seq. ("ADA"). Thus, Judge Leonard P. Stark denied the Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment.
By way of factual background, Plaintiff Karen M. Roberts (“Roberts” or "Plaintiff”) was employed as a part-time nurse at the Milford Memorial Hospital ("Hospital"), a Delaware facility operated by Defendant Bayhealth Medical Center, Inc. (“Bayhealth” or "Defendant”). Roberts began her employment in 1988 and was terminated in February 2012.
Between 2003 and 2011, Roberts had several surgeries resulting from a brain tumor, and at some point she became disabled as defined by the ADA. Between 2010 and 2012, Bayhealth transitioned from regularly scheduling nurses for eight (8) hour shifts, to requiring nurses to work twelve (12) hour shifts. Roberts requested to keep a regular schedule of three (3) eight (8) hour daytime shifts every week; however, Bayhealth refused and eventually, in 2012, terminated Roberts.
Roberts subsequently filed suit against Bayhealth, alleging Bayhealth violated her rights under the ADA by refusing to make the reasonable accommodation of giving her a regular, part-time schedule consisting of three (3) eight (8) hour day shifts. Bayhealth moved for summary judgment, contending there was no genuine issue of material fact that Bayhealth provided a reasonable accommodation to the extent required by the ADA.
To show that Bayhealth breached its duty to provide a reasonable accommodation as required by the ADA, the court explained that Roberts had to show: (1) Bayhealth knew about her disability; (2) Roberts requested accommodations or assistance; (3) Bayhealth did not make a good faith effort to assist her in seeking accommodations; and (4) Roberts could have been reasonably accommodated but-for Bayhealth's lack of good faith. See Taylor v. Phoenixville Sch. Dist., 184 F.3d 296, 311-12 (3d Cir. 1999).
The court noted that it was undisputed that Bayhealth knew about Roberts’ disability, and that Roberts had requested to work three (3) eight (8) hour day shifts as an accommodation for her disability. The parties’ dispute centered on whether or not Bayhealth acted in good faith.
Bayhealth insisted that it had "made every attempt to accommodate Plaintiff so that she could continue to work at Bayhealth" and had "tailored its accommodation to the limitations set forth in the June 27 Note from Dr. Rutenberg [Roberts’ physician], which expressly limited Plaintiff to 8-hour shifts but which did not expressly state that those shifts had to be 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.”
The court was not persuaded by Bayhealth’s argument, however, finding that a reasonable jury could find that Bayhealth had not engaged in a good faith effort to reasonably accommodate Roberts' disability. First, the court noted that the nursing schedules continued to show eight (8) hour shifts, which indicated to the court that the accommodation that Plaintiff sought was reasonable.
Next, the court found that a reasonable jury could find that Bayhealth was not acting in good faith based on the fact that Bayhealth had refused to re-offer Roberts a part-time accommodation when she attempted to accept it just 18 days after initially rejecting it. Additionally, the court noted there were several internal Bayhealth emails indicating that some Bayhealth personnel viewed Roberts as a burden, which the court found to be additional evidence of a lack of good faith. Finally, the court noted that while the note from Roberts’ doctor was silent as to the specific eight (8) hour shifts that Roberts needed, Roberts had told Bayhealth about her need for day shifts, and Bayhealth could have resolved any uncertainty by requesting additional information.
Under those circumstances, the court concluded that a reasonable jury could find, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Roberts had produced sufficient evidence to support a prima facie discrimination claim under the ADA. Accordingly, the court denied Bayhealth’s Motion for Summary Judgment.
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