Jones v. Nationwide Life Insurance

In Jones, the plaintiff was required to pass a test in order to keep his job with an insurance company.  Before he took these tests, in an attempt to get necessary licenses, the plaintiff had multiple surgeries on his upper body that required him to take extensive pain medications.   After multiple unsuccessful attempts to pass this test, he was asked to take a demotion that did not require the licensure.   Ultimately, he was let go by the company.  After his termination, he sued, alleging that he was not granted a “reasonable accommodation” as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  

The plaintiff argued that because of his multiple surgeries, he had a disability and was entitled to a “reasonable accommodation” pursuant to the Act.  Specifically, he argued that he should have been granted more time to pass the necessary tests.  The Court disagreed.     First, the Court reasoned that  Jones did not inform his employer that he had a disability until after he had failed the tests, noting “when an employee requests an accommodation for the first time only after it becomes clear that an adverse employment action is imminent, such a request can be ‘too little, too late.'”  Second, the plaintiff did not give his employer any reason to believe that if the accommodation was granted (i.e. an extension in order to take the test), that the plaintiff would pass the test.  

In conclusion, it is very important for employees, who suspect they may have a disability, to inform their employer of this disability.  If they do not, they will be unable to plead for relief after adverse actions are taken.  In contrast, employers should take this case as an example of how to handle employee disability related claims.  A “reasonable accommodation” does not require an employer to do any and everything to accommodate an employee who complains of a disability.