A mammography technician, who has epilepsy, suffered numerous seizures during her work at a hospital. One seizure caused her to fall and resulted in a head wound requiring staples. Two other seizures occurred in the presence of patients receiving mammograms. A patient complained to the hospital, expressing a concern for safety.
Good Faith Interactive Process
The hospital made a number of accommodations in an effort to eliminate environmental triggers to the employee’s seizures, including removing mold, investigating cleaning agent ingredients, having other technicians handle patients who wore heavy perfumes, installing anti-glare filters on lights, eliminating scrolling from computers, covering x-ray films to reduce brightness, permitting her to wear sunglasses and educating co-workers regarding epilepsy.
Disability Law Overview
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Missouri Human Rights Act, a “qualified individual” is one, “who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions” of her position. A “reasonable accommodation” is defined as “modifications or adjustments to the work environment … that enable an individual with a disability who is qualified to perform the essential functions of that position. Missouri law defines a “disability” as “a physical or mental impairment” that “with or without reasonable accommodation does not interfere with performing the job.”
The United States Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit ruled that the employee failed to establish that she is a qualified individual under the ADA and MHRA. The Court held that an essential function of the job included insuring patient safety and the employee could not adequately perform that function during the indefinite periods in which she was incapacitated from a seizure. The 8th Circuit concluded that the hospital need not subject its patients to potential physical and emotional trauma to comply with its duties under the MHRA and the ADA.