Directions: Read the statements following each case problem on the examination and indicate on the answer sheet whether those statements are True or False by placing a “T” or a “F” in the appropriate space on the answer sheet. If you wish to explain your answer, place an asterisk (*) next to your answer on the answer sheet and attach your written explanations to the submitted answer sheet, indicating the case problem and statement to which your explanation relates.
Case 2: EEOC v. Ford Motor Company, 752 F.3d 634 (6th Cir. 2014) (Mallor 16th Ed. p. 1429).
Jane Harris worked as a “resale buyer” for Ford Motor Company from 2003 to 2009. Resale steel buyers serve as intermediaries between steel suppliers and the companies that use steel to produce parts for Ford. They respond to emergency supply issues to ensure that there is no gap in steel supplies to the parts manufacturers. They work on a number of individual tasks, including site visits to suppliers; however, “the essence of the job [is] group problem-solving, which required that a buyer be available to interact with members of the resale team, suppliers, and others in the Ford system” when problems arise.
Harris suffered from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which causes fecal incontinence. During her IBS flare-ups, Harris would have difficulty leaving her house or even standing up from her desk at work without soiling herself. As a result, she was absent from the workplace a lot. She took intermittent FMLA leave during periods of severe symptoms, but she also tried to work out with her superiors options that would allow her to work from home. Ford did not allow remote work. Nonetheless, Harris would work from home on an informal basis, as well as evenings and weekends. Ford did not credit Harris for this work and treated Harris as absent, because it concluded that work performed outside of core business hours was not a sufficient substitute for work during regular hours. In particular, according to Ford, Harris could not engage in team problem-solving or access suppliers to obtain information during off-hours. Moreover, her managers were frustrated because they felt like they had to allocate Harris’s work to themselves or to other resale buyers.
In February 2009, Harris made a formal request to telecommute on an as-needed basis as an accommodation for her disability. Although Ford had a telecommuting policy that allowed authorized employees to work up to four days per week from home, the policy was clear that telecommuting arrangements might not be appropriate for “all jobs, employees, work environments or even managers.” Ford denied Harris’s request, concluding that her position was not suitable for telecommuting. Ford offered Harris alternative accommodations, including moving her cubicle closer to the restroom or transferring her to a different job within Ford more suitable for telecommuting. Harris rejected these options.
Harris had filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. In 2011, after determining there was reasonable cause to believe that Ford had discriminated against Harris on the basis of her disability, the EEOC filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan alleging that Ford violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to accommodate Harris’s disability.
Ford moved for summary judgment, and the district court granted the motion. It found that Harris was not a qualified individual because of her excessive absenteeism and that telecommuting was not a reasonable accommodation. Harris appealed.
|1. In order to succeed in her claim, Harris has the burden of establishing that she is disabled, that she is otherwise qualified for the position despite her disability with a proposed reasonable accommodation, and that permitting her to work with from home will not impose an undue hardship on Ford Motor Company.|
|2. Joan Harris must have received a “180-day letter” or “right-to-sue” letter from the EEOC, because her case has proceeded to trial.|
|3. Harris is be deemed to have a qualifying disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 2008, even if her irritable bowel syndrome were correctable through diet, medication or surgery.|
|4. Ford Motor Company may avoid liability to Harris under the business necessity defense, if it establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that Harris’s physical presence in the workplace was critical to the group dynamic of the resale-buyer team in order to have face-to-face interactions with group.|
|5. Even though Harris has a poor record of past attendance at work as a result of her disability, Ford Motor Company may not utilize the same decision defense to avoid ADA liability to Harris.|