Work in the Time of COVID-19: FAQs for Employers

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Recently, the Fourth Circuit issued an opinion in an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accommodation case, Elledge v. Lowe’s Home Centers, LLC[i]. The case shows the importance of employers paying close attention to the ADA interactive process and making good faith efforts to accommodate employee disabilities.

In this case, Chuck Elledge sued his employer, Lowe’s, under the ADA for failing to accommodate him in his job and refusing to reassign him to a job of equivalent stature. His job as a director required extensive walking between stores, and his doctor restricted him to no more than four hours of walking per day after a series of surgeries. Lowe’s agreed to these restrictions temporarily and gave him a motorized scooter to use during store visits. Elledge required subordinates to drive him from store to store without the company’s permission. When it became clear that Elledge would not be able to continue in his current position, Lowe’s discussed other career options with him, including less demanding and lower-paying positions. Elledge rejected this and applied for lateral director positions. When he was denied, he sued, claiming that Lowe’s should have either accommodated him in his current director position or reassigned him to an equivalent position.

The Fourth Circuit ruled Elledge failed to show he could perform the “essential functions” of his job “with or without reasonable accommodation.” They also affirmed the lower court’s ruling that he had not shown he was qualified for the jobs to which he applied before filing suit, which was necessary for him to prevail.

Key takeaways for employers:

If you have any questions about this Fourth Circuit case or best practices for ADA accommodations, the employment law attorneys at Poyner Spruill are here to help.

[i] Elledge v. Lowe’s Home Centers, LLC, No. 19CV1069 (4th Cir. November 18, 2020).

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