What Do You Think: Did Texas District Offer Registrar Adequate Roles after Leave?

02 Aug, 2021 Frank Ferreri


New Orleans, LA (WorkersCompensation.com) – When a worker comes off medical leave and employer refuses to put her back in a job she wants, it could be disability discrimination.

But, as a federal appeals court recently addressed, the question is whether the employer offers the employee a job in good faith and what the employee is qualified to do.

A registrar for a Texas middle school claimed that after moving into the job from a teaching position additional duties were added, requiring her to do the work of an attendance clerk on top of her other responsibilities.

She filed a grievance against the school district, complaining that she was required to do two jobs and that the extra duties and poor treatment caused her “considerable stress.”

Eventually, the registrar and the district settled the grievance, but then the registrar experienced a flare-up of her ulcerative colitis. Due to her health challenges, the registrar took leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

As the registrar’s leave was nearing expiration, the district sent her a letter and form offering her three options: 1) certification of a doctor’s release to work; 2) acknowledgement that her doctor had not released her for active duty; or 3) election not to return to work.

The registrar did not return the form, but the district offered her a position as an attendance clerk. Because she was making $60,000 annually as a registrar and the attendance clerk role paid $25,000, the registrar rejected the offer.

In turn, the district offered her any of 50 other positions or the option to return to a teaching. However, she did not take another job with the district.

The district eventually told her that because she was out of FMLA leave, her position was not protected and that the district was going to terminate her employment.

The registrar sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act, claiming that the district discriminated against her due to her disability. A federal court ruled in the district’s favor, prompting the registrar to appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, claiming that the district violated the ADA by not offering a position comparable to her registrar role.

Under the ADA, an employee must show that the position she sought existed, that she was qualified for it, and could perform the job with or without accommodations.

Did the registrar show that the district failed to offer a position she could perform?

A. Yes. The district offered the registrar lesser-paying roles based on her disability.

B. No. The district made good faith job offers to the registrar in an effort to accommodate her.

If you chose B, you agreed with the court in Drake v. Spring Independent School District, No. 20-20376 (5th Cir. 07/27/21), which held that the teacher did not address most of the 50 other positions the district offered , meaning that she did not show the court the positions were not offered in good faith.

The district had already filled the registrar’s position after she exhausted her FMLA leave, and she did not meet the job requirements of other jobs she sought. As a result, the court reasoned that the registrar did not show that an available position existed for which she was qualified and could, with or without reasonable accommodations, perform.

The court highlighted that even after the registrar rejected all of the district’s offers, the district ultimately asked her attorney, “What is she interested in and what is she wanting?”

Without the registrar offering an alternative for which she was qualified, the registrar could not conince the the court found that there was a basis for her ADA claim. Thus, the court upheld the lower court’s ruling in the district’s favor.

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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