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Worker turned down light-duty offer? That gives you an advantage in ADA lawsuit

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Here’s a situation you can use to your advantage if you offer light-duty work to an employee who claims he has become disabled: If he turns down your offer, that could sink any disability discrimination claim he later makes.

That’s especially true if he rejects the job because he feels it’s beyond his physical abilities. You can then argue that his claimed disability is too severe to be accommodated.

Recent case: Daniel Griffin worked as a police officer until he hurt his back at work. When he was offered a clerical job, he dismissed the position as a make-work creation—and said he wasn’t physically able to perform it.

Meanwhile, the police department obtained surveillance video that showed Griffin carrying a recliner and planting flowers, tasks he presumably couldn’t perform if he couldn’t do a clerical job.

After he was terminated for unrelated reasons, Griffin filed an ADA lawsuit, alleging he should have been returned to another police position he would have qualified for had he been on active duty.

The court tossed his case, saying two factors sank Griffin’s ADA claims. First, he could lift a recliner, so his injury didn’t interfere with life functions. Second, if he was so weak that he couldn’t perform clerical work, then he certainly wasn’t qualified to be reasonably accommodated while performing a law enforcement job. (Griffin v. Kingston, No. 11-1768, 3rd Cir., 2011)

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