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Title I of the Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112(a), requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to otherwise qualified persons with a disability to enable them to work. The federal government has a similar requirement under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794. What is a “reasonable” accommodation? This is a determination to be made on the facts by the employer on a case-by-case basis. Ultimately, the decision an employer makes may be reviewed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) (or an equivalent state agency) or a court if challenged by an applicant or employee.

PROMPT: CASE STUDY

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Adele, a fully qualified specialized registered nurse, is deaf. She relies upon an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter to communicate with hearing individuals in the workplace. Adele applied for a job with Marigold Mercy Receiving and Trauma Center (“MMRTC”), a large medical center that, with all its hubs and subsidiaries, grossed $1.3 billion annually. Adele received a job offer, conditioned upon a health screening and clearance by MMRTC’s occupational health department. She is in fact cleared, but she notified MMRTC that she needed an ASL interpreter as an accommodation for her hearing impairment. The annual salary, including benefits, for her position was approximately $75,000. Upon investigation, MMRTC calculated that the annual cost to MMRTC for the ASL interpreter accommodation would be $120,000; there was the need for a full time interpreter for Adele, plus several situations where two ASL interpreters would be required. In considering Adele’s request for accommodation, the department’s hiring supervisor wrote in an email that the department’s annual HR budget allocation of $3 million could not absorb the “excessive cost of the additional personnel” of ASL qualified interpreters “for this one nurse.” MMRTC determined the additional salary and personnel would be an “undue hardship,” making the accommodation unreasonable. Therefore, MMRTC did not hire Adele. Did MMRTC violate ADA?

DISCUSS: Was MMRTC within its rights to refuse the accommodation and thus not hire Adele? In considering this case, you should review: 1) what is considered a “reasonable” accommodation under ADA; (2) sample accommodations listed by ADA (42 U.S.C. § 12111(9) (2018)) and the EEOC (www.eeoc.gov); and (3) the definition and standard for “undue hardship” (42 U.S.C. § 12111(10)(a) (2018)). Please support your thoughts and conclusion with reasoned analysis.

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