Radiologist Fails to Connect Remote Workstation, 'On Call' Exemption to Heart Malady


Boston, MA ( – An employer may be able to defeat a failure to accommodate claim by highlighting the disconnect between an employee’s disability and the accommodations she sought. 

That’s what occurred in Desai v. University of Massachusetts Memorial Med. Ctr., No. 4:19-10520-TSH (D. Mass. 05/31/22), in which a long-time radiologist with a heart condition asked her employer for a home workstation and other accommodations.  

The radiologist suffered from tachy-brady syndrome, which caused her unpredictable spells of weakness and fatigue. The spells usually occurred when she was overexerted and tended to last a few minutes. In addition to specializing as a chest radiologist, part of the doctor’s job duties included working as a professor at the university.  

The radiologist requested three accommodations: 1) that she be allotted "academic time," which, according to hospital policy, allowed physicians to take time away from clinical duties to perform academic responsibilities; 2) that she be exempt from being on call; and 3) that she be allowed to use a home workstation, which the hospital granted to certain radiologists for remote work.  

The hospital denied all three requests. The radiologist subsequently sued the hospital under the ADA for failing to reasonably accommodate her. 

An employee may establish an ADA violation by demonstrating, in part, that she was a qualified individual with a disability and that her employer denied her reasonable accommodations. In addition, the court explained, the requested accommodations must be connected to the disability at issue. 

The court acknowledged that the hospital knew about the radiologist’s heart malady and that her condition sometimes required her to miss work. “But that general awareness did not itself link each of [the radiologist’s] requests to her heart condition,” the court wrote.  

For an employer to be held liable for denying reasonable accommodations, the court explained, the employee must show that she explained to her employer how the requested accommodations would address her disability. That’s where the radiologist’s case fell apart, the court concluded. When the radiologist made her requests for academic time, reduced call responsibilities, and a home workstation, she failed to reasonably explain how those supports were connected to her condition. 

Further, the court noted that the hospital was not unresponsive to the radiologist’s needs. The hospital provided her intermittent medical leave in the form of two days off per month, the court observed. Moreover, staff encouraged the radiologist to speak to human resources if she required additional accommodations—a step which the radiologist failed to take.  

As to her accommodation requests, the court held that there was nothing in the record to link her desire for academic time, reduced call responsibilities, or a home workstation to her condition. “At best, [the radiologist] requested academic time to take ‘a break’ and a home workstation because she gets ‘tired,’” the court wrote.  

The radiologist’s lack of specificity concerning how these things would accommodate her disability was detrimental to her ADA claim. The court granted the hospital summary judgment. 

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