Ninth Circuit Holds that an Employer Need Not Reasonably Accommodate an Employee Who Does Not Meet the Job's Minimum Requirements

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On December 8, 2011, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a disabled teacher who failed to meet the minimum requirements for her position was not a “qualified individual” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and that her employer, therefore, was not required to accommodate her disability. This decision appears to be positive reinforcement that employers are not obligated to accommodate individuals who cannot perform the applicable job duties.

In Johnson v. Board of Trustees of the Boundary County School District No. 101, No. 10-35233, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 24305 (9th Cir. Dec. 8, 2011), plaintiff, a special education teacher in Idaho with a history of depression and bipolar disorder, sued her school district employer under the federal ADA for failing to reasonably accommodate her disability. Plaintiff argued that the school district failed to reasonably accommodate her disability in violation of the ADA, when it refused to apply for a provisional authorization from the state of Idaho to allow her to teach for another school year, even though she lacked an Idaho-mandated valid teaching certificate. Plaintiff would not have had a valid certificate by the start of the school year because she did not take the three semester hours of professional development training that would count for college credit required to renew the teaching certificate. Notably, during the summer preceding the applicable school year and the expiration of her valid certificate, Plaintiff suffered a “major depressive episode” that prevented her from obtaining the credits.

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