• ADA - Implied Request for Reasonable Accommodation
  • December 19, 2016
  • Law Firm: Shawe Rosenthal LLP - Baltimore Office
  • Although most courts have found that an employee must clearly request a reasonable accommodation for a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit held that such a request can be implied under the circumstances.

    In Kowitz v. Trinity Health, respiratory therapists were required to complete basic life support certification. The plaintiff, who had a degenerative spine disease that required surgery, notified her supervisor that she would not be able to complete the required certification until she completed four months of physical therapy. She was then terminated on the basis that she could not meet the qualifications for the job.

    The trial court dismissed her ADA failure to accommodate claims because she had never expressly requested an accommodation. The 8th Circuit, however, found that, under the circumstances, the employer should have understood her communications to be a request for an accommodation - the employer was aware of the condition and its limitations, and the employee had notified the employer that she would not be able to complete the required certification for four months. According to the 8th Circuit, “An employee is required only to provide[] the employer with enough information that, under the circumstances, the employer can be fairly said to know of both the disability and desire for an accommodation.” The employee is not required to “formally invoke the magic words ‘reasonable accommodation’ to transform [a] notification into a request for accommodation.”

    Thus, employers should be careful when taking the position that an employee has not requested an accommodation for a disability, and therefore no accommodation is required. Relying on a technical formality may not, in fact, prevent liability under the ADA if common sense would suggest that the employer should have known that a reasonable accommodation was required.