An Iowa employee has type I diabetes and is insulin-dependent. Her job involved frequent shift changes in a center that operates 24/7. She asked for a day-shift-only job to accommodate her disability, but the employer didn’t find one she liked. So she sued.
What happened. "Kelly" worked for Alliant Energy Corporate Services in Cedar Rapids. As a coordinator, she was responsible for monitoring the distribution of electricity, gas, and steam in the service area and managing outages and other emergencies. Her diabetes became increasingly difficult to manage, and her physician asked that she work only on the day shift. But in each of three day jobs Alliant suggested to her, she found something she didn’t like.
Kelly had another troublesome condition—peripheral vascular disease, which makes it difficult for her to walk. That required surgery the following year, for which she requested and was given Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave. On her return, she applied for a day job two levels up from her coordinator position, but the promotion went to someone else.
Alliant gave her a temporary light-duty job and after it expired offered her several other positions. But she rejected them all, retired with disability benefits, and sued Alliant for failing to accommodate her disability, a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A judge in federal district court reviewed Alliant’s efforts and ruled in the employer’s favor. Kelly appealed to the 8th Circuit, which covers Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
What the court said. Appellate judges noted that under the ADA an employer is required to explore reasonable accommodations for an employee with a disability in an interactive dialog. But they also saw that Alliant had tried very hard, with no success, to identify a day-shift job that Kelly would accept.
Finally, they considered whether she was "otherwise qualified to perform all the essential functions of her job," a requirement for ADA protection. Alliant had built the rotating shift element as an essential function of the coordination position into the job description, and judges ruled that Kelly was not qualified for her job. Kallail v. Alliant Energy Corporate Services, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, No. 11-2202 (9/4/12).
Point to remember: Judges were impressed with the efforts that Alliant had put in to find a suitable day-shift job for this plaintiff. They also gave the employer major credit for including the rotating shift requirement in the job description for her position; including such essential functions is a critical part of ADA compliance.