Last month, I addressed the Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision in Curry v. Allan S. Goodman, which expanded state disability laws to match (or in some cases, exceed) the scope of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The employer has moved, on limited grounds, to have the court reconsider its decision. You can download a copy of the motion here.
One of the grounds raised by the employer is something that I touched on before — namely that the court is expanding the duty to provide reasonable accommodation to former employees who request reinstatement and an accommodation.
The employer has also requested reconsideration on the grounds that the court’s ruling could also be interpreted to require an employer to convert a temporary light duty position into a permanent one, contrary to the general rule cited by the court. Because the case’s procedural status was that of a summary judgment, the employer also expressed its concern that the court’s rulings could be seen as determinations of fact in case that still has issues of disputed facts.
The brief’s relevant portion is as follows:
In this case this court has ruled, for the first time, that the disability provisions of General Statutes § 45a-60(a)(1) require an employer to make the same kind of reasonable accommodation required under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12112(b)(5)(A). However, in the course of applying this principle to the facts of this case, this court addressed issues other than the application of the reasonable accommodation requirement itself. In this regard, the opinion identifies two actions that “satisfy the plaintiff’s burden of initiating the interactive process.” 286 Conn. at 417.
The first is the plaintiff’s “affirmative request to continue working the warehouse night shift in March, 2001.” Id. The second is plaintiff’s counsel’s letter of April 19, 2001 requesting that the defendant “(1) reconsider its decision; (2) provide a cost-benefit analysis supporting its decision to terminate the plaintiff; and (3) continue to grant the plaintiff the accommodation of having another worker assist him when it became necessary to retrieve boxes that weighed more than the plaintiff’s lifting restrictions.” Id.
However, as the opinion notes, the defendant did not contest the claim that the statute required it, prior to the defendant’s termination, to make some accommodation and to engage in an interactive process with the employee to determine if a reasonable accommodation existed. Rather, the focus of the parties below was on the adequacy of the employer’s efforts at reasonable accommodation, not on whether the two actions cited by the court constituted new requests for accommodation requiring a new interactive process. There are, at the very least, serious questions whether either of the actions cited by the court is sufficient to trigger this obligation.
It’s too easy for some to state that all employers are the "evil empire" and that all arguments that they raise are frivolous.
But as I’ve noted before, the grounds the employer raises here are sensible ones. The Court went beyond what it needed to to make its decision and, in doing so, created some rules that could have significant implications in all disability cases in Connecticut.
Here’s hoping that the Connecticut Supreme Court takes the time to review them; otherwise, there may be a lot of busy employment law lawyers later this year.