Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ninth Circuit Holds Retail Store Manager Unable to Work Is Not Qualified Individual

The Ninth Circuit held that a retail store manager who was unable to perform her essential job functions  was not a qualified individual, despite her request for a part time schedule and a five month leave.

Montblanc properly asserts that Lawler cannot competently perform her job duties as manager. Here, the essential duties of a boutique manager are undisputed. Lawler testified that a manager is responsible for hiring, training, and supervising sales staff; overseeing and developing customer relations; administrating stocking and inventory; cleaning; creating store displays; and preparing
sales reports. She further stated that the duties of a manager can only be performed in the store.

But but but... she was "on disability" and leave is a type of accommodation.  What happened?
The key is that Lawler did not establish that she ever would be able to perform her essential job duties again.

Lawler, however, offers no factual support showing she can perform any job duty of a boutique manager, regardless of the accommodation. Rather, she admitted that her disability makes it impossible for her to fulfill the duties of her position and that she has been unemployed since October 2009, has not applied for any positions, has made no effort to secure employment, and has exhausted her disability benefits.
Lawler contends that Montblanc “cannot argue that it met its burden of showing that Plaintiff was not able to do the job with or without reasonable accommodation” because it denied her requests for reduced hours and a five-month leave of absence. This argument ignores the holding in Green that “the plaintiff employee bears the burden of proving he or she was able to do the job, with or without reasonable accommodation.”
The court also rejected a harassment claim and a retaliation claim.  But the headline is the rejection of the disability discrimination case.

The opinion in Lawler v. Montblanc is here.