MHRA doesn’t require interactive process

Disability protections under the Minnesota Human Rights Act differ from those set by the ADA.

For example, the ADA requires employers to engage in an interactive accommodations process before either deciding on a reasonable accommodation for a disabled worker or rejecting the request altogether. Not engaging in that process can be the basis for an ADA lawsuit.

But the MHRA—even though it largely parallels the ADA—does not require an interactive process. Employers covered only by the MHRA and not the ADA (because they have fewer than 15 employees) are free to reject a reasonable accommodation request without consulting with the employee.

That doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t have to make the accommodations decision in good faith.

Recent case: Thaleaha worked in a foundry and aluminum die-casting facility as a machine operator in the production department. The company required operators to be able to operate, maintain and repair heavy machinery, move heavy metal parts and lift objects weighing 30 pounds or more.

Thaleaha sought treatment for severe pain in her hands, back and neck. Her doctor limited lifting to 10 pounds due to disc narrowing, a bulging disc and bone spurs in her vertebrae. She informed management. They consulted her doctor, who told them that Thaleaha risked paralysis if she lifted more than 10 pounds.

The company terminated her, concluding that no accommodation was possible that would allow her to safely perform the essential functions of her job.

She sued under the MHRA, alleging among other claims that the company hadn’t engaged in the interactive accommodations process.

The lower court said that wasn’t required, and now the Court of Appeals of Minnesota has upheld that decision. It wrote that, unlike the ADA, the MHRA simply doesn’t require an interactive process. (McBee v. Team Industries, Court of Appeals of Minnesota, 2018)