What to do when it appears a person’s injury may prevent him or her from doing their job: 

Take your time, and engage in the ADA’s interactive process.

Otherwise, you could end up like Jacobs Field Services, a construction company, which is staring down the barrel of an expensive ADA jury trial.

It offered Michael Cannon a field engineer job, but his pre-employment physical revealed a rotator cuff injury.

‘Not able to meet job duties’

He was cleared to work, but only if granted several accommodations, including not having to lift his hand above his shoulder.

According to the court ruling, the turning point occurred when human resources notified JFS’s technical services manager about the doctor’s proposed accommodations and sought approval to proceed with Cannon’s hiring. In response, the technical services manager stated that Cannon would “not be able to meet the project needs and required job duties.”

A human resources representative contacted Cannon around this time. Not mentioning the seemingly unequivocal position taken by the manager that Cannon could not do the job, the HR representative informed Cannon only that JFS had concerns that he could not reach above his head with his right arm.

Cannon asked whether he could contact someone to resolve the concerns and was told to call the Occupational Health Department. Cannon promptly did so and was told that JFS needed him to clarify whether he could climb a ladder. Since there was no indication that the job offer had been rescinded,

Cannon took the requests for additional information to mean that satisfactory responses would eliminate the concerns. Cannon provided the requested information, submitting documentation from his doctor stating that he was “specifically cleared for climbing vertical ladders and maintaining 3-point contact with either arm.”

No one from JFS followed up with Cannon to discuss the doctor’s notes he had submitted. Instead, during a call on July 20, the same day Cannon submitted the clearance forms from his doctor, JFS informed Cannon that it was rescinding the offer based on his inability to climb a ladder.

Cannon continued to try to prove to JFS that he was capable of climbing a ladder in an effort to have his offer reinstated—sending a video of himself climbing a ladder while maintaining 3-point contact. JFS did not respond. Cannon made additional attempts to try to contact JFS and discuss his injury and limitations, but the company wouldn’t budge.

Cannon sued, claiming disability discrimination under the ADA.

The company tried to get his suit thrown out. But the court ruled that because the company had failed to go through the interactive process to determine whether Cannon was actually qualified for the position, a jury should decide whether or not JFS had violated the ADA,

Cite: Cannon v. Jacobs Field Services North America Inc. (link courtesy of employmentandlaborinsider.com).

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