An employer lawfully terminated an employee pursuant to an attendance policy that did not distinguish between absences for medical reasons and other reasons, according to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Basden v. Professional Transportation, Inc. (7th Cir. May 8, 2013). Some of the plaintiff’s absences were due to the onset and symptoms of her medical condition, multiple sclerosis. She provided a doctor’s note after each of her absences.
In affirming summary judgment for the employer, the Court held that attendance is generally an essential job requirement and an employer “need not accommodate erratic or unreliable attendance.” The Court added that a “plaintiff whose disability prevents her from coming to work regularly cannot perform the essential functions of her job, and thus cannot be a qualified individual for ADA purposes.” This statement is significant because of the uncertainty surrounding the administration of no-fault attendance policies. The EEOC has contended that an employer must excuse absences caused by a disability as a reasonable accommodation, unless to do so would be an undue hardship.
The Court also held the employer did not fail to accommodate the plaintiff when it rejected her request for a 30 day unpaid leave and then terminated her. While the court held that the employer might not have engaged in the interactive process concerning the leave request appropriately, the plaintiff did not establish that the leave or any other accommodation would have resulted in her regular attendance when she would have returned.