Air conditioning: mandatory accommodation?

Charles Gribben worked as a UPS driver in Phoenix. His doctor said he should operate only trucks with air conditioning. High temperatures aggravated his heart condition. Most UPS trucks have air conditioning, but the company couldn’t guarantee Gribben would always drive one. Finding it couldn’t accommodate Gribben’s disability, it terminated him.

Gribben sued UPS under the ADA, which requires employers to offer reasonable accommodations to qualified disabled employees. An employee meets that test if he or she is “substantially limited in a major life activity.”

UPS argued that Gribben failed to prove that he was substantially limited compared with the “average person in the general population.”

The lower court dismissed Gribben’s case, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed. It said “comparative evidence” is not required under the ADA. Now a jury will decide whether Gribben was substantially limited enough to require air conditioning as an accommodation. (Gribben v. United Parcel Serv. Inc., No. 06-15964, 9th Cir., 2008)

Pay attention to how your argument might look to a jury. They’re notoriously employee-friendly, and a Phoenix jury is quite likely to find air conditioning a perfectly reasonable accommodation.