Employers hire workers so they can meet their need for labor. They naturally expect employees to show up on a regular basis, unless there’s an illness or emergency.
But some employees have medical or other conditions that cause sporadic attendance. If they claim a disability, then they must be able to prove they can perform a job’s essential functions with or without reasonable accommodations.
Often, actually being present at work is critical to job performance, which means accommodating absences simply may not be possible.
Recent case: John Blake went to work for a hospital as a phlebotomist, a job that requires dealing with patients who need blood tests. During his initial probationary period, he was absent many times. When challenged, he told the hospital he suffered from bipolar disorder and other maladies, making irregular attendance a fact of life.
The hospital followed its attendance disciplinary policy, providing progressive warnings. Finally, it fired Blake.
He sued under the ADA, alleging that the hospital should have accommodated his need for irregular attendance.
The court disagreed. It said that Blake was simply unqualified for his job because he could not be counted on to show up for work when scheduled. (Blake v. UPMC Passavant Hospital, No. 08-2368, 3rd Cir., 2010)
Final note: Due to his short tenure, Blake wasn’t eligible for. If he had been, he could have asked for for his unpredictable attendance.