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Inability to work overtime doesn’t mean worker is disabled

by on
in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

As a senior train operations manager, Clyde Kellogg regularly put in 60 hours to 80 hours a week, including weekends, holidays and at home. That is, until he appeared to have a heart attack and an ambulance took him from work.

What Kellogg actually had was a severe panic attack, and he was diagnosed with major depression and anxiety.

When he returned to work, the doctors restricted him to a 40-hour, daylight-only workweek. The company eventually said it couldn't continue to accommodate those restrictions. Kellogg was removed from his job and turned down for eight other positions. After his disability benefits expired, he was terminated.

Kellogg sued, claiming disability discrimination, but the court said he didn't qualify under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Reason: The restriction to working 40 hours a week did not substantially limit his ability to work at other jobs. The court said the company also didn't have to turn away more qualified applicants for other jobs to accommodate Kellogg, a point that other circuits have disagreed with. (Kellogg v. Union Pacific Railroad Co., No. 00-1893, 8th Cir., 2000)

Advice: If working overtime is required for a job, don't feel you have to accommodate an employee who can't fill the requirement. To protect yourself, include a line in the job description that says working overtime is mandatory. In this case, even though the employer initially accommodated the no-overtime restriction, it wasn't obligated to continue doing so indefinitely. The court, however, questioned why the company did not help an "experienced, commended and loyal employee" find a position that would satisfy both the company and employee.

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