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Employment Law Alert: Honda Scores Significant Win In ADA Case

On May 3, the Sixth Circuit issued an opinion affirming summary judgment in favor of Honda in an ADA case. At issue was whether Honda violated the ADA by failing to participate in good faith in the interactive process for determining whether a reasonable accommodation of an employee's disability was possible. The employee, Michael Kleiber, sustained a serious head injury following a fall, and was thereafter unable to resume his former production duties. He then sought the assistance of the Ohio Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation ("OBVR") to work with Honda in trying to locate an alternate position for him. For its part, Honda -- which does not have written job descriptions -- had representatives go out to its production lines in an effort to identify any vacant jobs that Kleiber would be able to perform. They considered Kleiber for several such positions, but ultimately concluded that his limited dexterity and inability to work on uneven surfaces precluded his placement into any of these positions.

Kleiber sued Honda under the ADA, claiming that the Company acted in bad faith with respect to its duty under the ADA to engage in an interactive process for determining if a reasonable accommodation was possible, because it had not provided the OBVR with information on the jobs it reviewed. However, noting that the OBVR never requested this information, the trial court awarded summary judgment in Honda's favor, and the Sixth Circuit affirmed its decision. In so doing, the Sixth Circuit noted that "[w]e cannot conclude that failing to provide unrequested information is tantamount to bad faith." (Emphasis added). The Court also noted that the burden of proof was on Kleiber to demonstrate that a reasonable accommodation would have been possible in order to establish that Honda had acted in bad faith. This Kleiber had failed to do.

Bottom Line

This is obviously a good result for employers because it delineates the parameters of an employer's obligations with respect to the ADA's interactive process requirement.

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