At the end of the year, this is sure to be a leading candidate for Most Absurd Lawsuit of 2015. 

Maria Waltherr-Willard was a schoolteacher at Mariemont High School in Cincinnati. She primarily taught French, but she also taught an introductory Spanish class.

Back in 1997, Mariemont asked her to teach at the elementary school, but she didn’t accept the position because she suffered from pedophobia — a fear of children. She provided her school with a letter from her psychologist, which stated her “mental state … would disable her from teaching [children under 12].”

As a result, Mariemont allowed her to remain at the high school.

Fast forward more than a decade … Mariemont decided to move its French courses online, which meant the high school no longer needed a French teacher.

And since the majority of the Spanish classes already belonged to a fellow teacher, the school district’s superintendent — having taken Willard’s pedophobia into account — decided to transfer Willard to the middle school.

According to court documents:

“Willard did not object to the new assignment, and later expressed ‘enthusiasm’ for teaching middle schoolers.”

But six months into her new job, Willard began to have problems with the position. She said her talents were being “underutilized” and that another year would have “further detrimental impact on [her] health.”

(Note: Two years ago — when she first filed suit against the school district — she claimed dealing with seventh- and eighth-graders triggered her phobia and caused her blood pressure to soar.)

She requested a transfer back to the high school where she sought a position teaching Spanish. Citing that there were no openings she could fill at the high school, the district denied her transfer request and said her request would be kept on file.

Willard then retired, and sued under the ADA. She claimed the school district should’ve accommodated her disability by letting her go back to teaching at the high school.

Grasping at straws

By all accounts, it appears Willard was grasping at straws.

The school district tried to get her case tossed on summary judgment, and it was successful.

The court actually threw her ADA claims out without addressing the elephant in the room — the head-scratching notion that a teacher should receive an accommodation because she’s afraid of children (After all, isn’t being around children an essential part of the profession? But we digress).

In about 100 words, the court shot a big hole in her ADA claim:

The ADA requires an employer to accommodate a disabled employee, but it does not require unreasonable accommodations. … For example, an employer need not “create new jobs [or] displace existing employees.” … Here, Willard asked Mariemont to accommodate her pedophobia by employing her at the high school as a full-time Spanish teacher. But the high school already had one of those and did not need another. Thus, to accommodate Willard, Mariemont would have to create a new job at the high school or else displace the existing Spanish teacher… Willard’s claim therefore fails.”

That says it all: Since there wasn’t a position available for Willard at the high school, the district would have to create a new one to fulfill her transfer request, which qualifies as an undue hardship under the ADA.

Case closed.

Cite: Waltherr-Willard v. Mariemont City Schools

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