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Employment Law Alert: Interesting ADA Case

In a recent Sixth Circuit opinion, Denczac v. Ford Motor Co., the Court acknowledged the legitimacy of "essential job functions" under the ADA which were based, not on written job descriptions, but on the testimony of Ford management personnel that its production quota was essential to all of its production jobs. The Court also recognized that, in an automobile manufacturing setting, a production quota may well be a necessity where the parts being produced are being supplied to an ever-moving automobile assembly line.

The plaintiff had a physical condition that required him to be able to take frequent bathroom breaks. Ford accommodated the plaintiff in various ways, including placing him on a welding job that allowed him to take breaks as needed, as long as he produced 225 units per hour. However, Ford also offered evidence that an employee working in such a position -- including the plaintiff -- would not face discipline so long as he was able to meet 80% of the production target. The plaintiff admitted that he could only meet approximately 35% of the target. Based on this evidence, the Court agreed with the trial court that the plaintiff could not demonstrate that he was able to perform the essential functions of his welding position. Moreover, while the plaintiff claimed that Ford should have found him a non-production position as a further accommodation of his condition, Ford had countered this claim with evidence that no such non-production jobs were available between the time that it became clear the plaintiff could not meet his production quota and the date he decided to retire from his position. Noting that employers are not required to "create new jobs, displace existing employees from their positions, or violate other employees' rights under a collective bargaining agreement or other non-discriminatory policy in order to accommodate a disabled individual," the Court agreed that Ford had not violated the ADA by not finding the plaintiff a non-production job before he decided to retire.

Bottom Line

This case is interesting because of the Court's acknowledgement that "essential job functions" need not be based on written job descriptions, as well as the necessity of production quotas in certain job settings.



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