The Employer's Legal Resource: Temp's Request for Leave is Not a Request for a Reasonable Accommodation

08.01.17

Kristin Punt worked for Kelly Services in Colorado. She was assigned by Kelly to work at GE Controls as a receptionist. Around the time of her placement, Ms. Punt received news that her mammogram required some follow-up testing. Over the next six weeks, Ms. Punt did not once work a complete 40-hour week for GE. The record is mixed on who knew what about her medical condition, what tests she took, etc. After these six weeks, GE asked Key to end the placement and send someone else – someone who would more reliably report to work.

Ms. Punt sued both Kelly Services and GE Controls for discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, Ms. Punt argued that her requested time off was a reasonable accommodation of her disability that Kelly Services and GE Controls should have granted.

The Court analyzed whether Ms. Punt's request was reasonable. They described her request as follows:

Plaintiff [Ms. Punt] asserts she requested a plausibly reasonable accommodation when she informed her supervisor at Kelly on a Monday morning that she planned "not to come to work this week at all" and indicated she would need additional time off for "some appointments and tests" and for "five times of radiation."

Order at p. 17. The Court found this was, on its face, not reasonable. The request did not provide the employer with any information about the expected duration or when the employee might be able to perform the essential functions of her job; most notably, being at her job.

Interestingly, the Court also commented that Ms. Punt cited no cases "in which a court found a leave of absence to be a reasonable accommodation for a temporary employee who was assigned to fill a position at a business by a temporary-staffing agency." Order at p. 19. It was also important to the Court that the position was that of a receptionist; a position in which being present was critical.

Taking all the facts into consideration, the Court found that Ms. Punt had not made a reasonable request for an accommodation and affirmed the judgment entered in favor of Kelly Services and GE Controls.

The take-away is, as it always is with ADA accommodation cases, the facts matter. There is not a single answer or even a roadmap. Employers must carefully consider what they know, and when they know it, when navigating the "reasonable accommodation" waters.

By Kristen L. Brightmire, KBrightmire@dsda.com

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Rebecca D. Bullard

Rebecca D. Bullard

Rebecca represents clients primarily in labor and employment litigation and counsels clients regarding everyday employment matters. 

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