What Do You Think: Did IN District Fail to Accommodate Reassigned Staffer with Broken Arm?

06 Dec, 2021 Frank Ferreri


Indianapolis, IN (WorkersCompensation.com) – Keeping track of what paperwork has been provided to an employee seeking a reasonable accommodation can help show that an employer engaged in a good-faith interactive process.

Whether an Indiana school district did enough toward that end was recently on the plate of a federal court.

A newly appointed superintendent for the district received feedback that the assistant superintendent of personnel was “incompetent, unapproachable, a poor communicator, and failed to return phone calls.”

Complaints about the assistant superintendent also indicated that she was a source of conflict and that she failed to provide the support and assistance that other staff needed from her.

Based on the criticism he received about the assistant superintendent as well as his own interaction with her, the superintendent decided to remove her from the central office administrative team. Later, the superintendent asked the school board to remove her from an administrative position altogether, and the board approved this request.

The district offered the assistant superintendent a teaching position, but she declined, saying that she couldn’t take the job due to a broken arm. In response, the district sent her paperwork to request an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The assistant superintendent never returned the paperwork but eventually accepted the teaching role. Nonetheless, she sued the district, claiming that it refused to offer her a reasonable accommodation.

To show a failure to accommodate on an employer’s part, under the ADA, an employee must show that: 1) she was a qualified individual with a disability; 2) the employer was aware of her disability; and 3) the employer failed to reasonably accommodate her disability.

Did the school district fail to accommodate the assistant superintendent?

A. Yes. The district’s failure to change her work assignment to fit her injury broke ADA requirements.

B. No. The district took steps to follow the ADA by giving her the paperwork.

If you picked B, you were on the same page as the court in Johnson v. Franklin Township Community School Corp., No. 1:19-cv-02479-JRS-MPB (S.D. Ind. 11/24/21), which ruled in the district’s favor in granting it summary judgment on the assistant superintendent’s failure-to-accommodate claim.

The court highlighted that the district engaged in a good-faith interactive process to identify an accommodation for the teacher and sought to accommodate her restrictions.

“An employer may be held liable only when its failure to engage in an interactive process resulted in a failure to identify an appropriate accommodation for the qualified individual,” the court explained. Ultimately, the district followed ADA requirements and did not stand in the way of the assistant superintendent’s rights under the law.

This feature does not provide legal advice.

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    About The Author

    • Frank Ferreri

      Frank Ferreri, M.A., J.D. covers workers' compensation legal issues. He has published books, articles, and other material on multiple areas of employment, insurance, and disability law. Frank received his master's degree from the University of South Florida and juris doctor from the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

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