Wacky Wednesday: Fear and Loathing in Elementary Education
Last week, the Sixth Circuit ruled that a former Ohio public school teacher who was suffering from pedophobia(the fear of young children), had not presented an Americans with Disabilities Act or Age Discrimination Claim. The Plaintiff requested the school district accommodate Plaintiff's disability, pedophobia, by transferring her from her middle school position to a Spanish teaching position at the high school. No such position, however, was available, and therefore the Court found that the requested accommodation was unreasonable as an employer "need not create new jobs [or] displace existing employees."
When employees present with a doctor's note or other communication putting an employer on notice of a potential disability, it is important that the employer immediately begin the interactive process. While the requested accommodation may appear to be unreasonable, or be of such that no accommodation could be made—such as in the case of a teacher who is afraid of children—it is still important to actively engage in the interactive process and attempt to come up with alternative solutions that could still permit the employee to perform all the indispensable functions of his or her position, while still accommodating the alleged disability.
If you are faced with a difficult accommodation request, or have questions regarding the interactive process, give a member of Verrill Dana's Labor & Employment Practice Group a call to discuss.