Ninth Circuit: Regular Attendance is "Essential Function" of Neo-Natal Nurse’s Job
A neo-natal intensive care nurse sued her hospital employer, claiming that her employer should allow her to take extra unplanned absences as an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, an employer must provide reasonable accommodations that enable a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of the position. In this case, the hospital did not dispute that the nurse was disabled and that she had the technical skills to perform the job. However, the Ninth Circuit said, the nurse ran into “an insurmountable hurdle … in arguing that regular attendance is not an essential function of [her] position.”
The court said it was a “common-sense notion” that regular on-site job attendance was an essential function of the nurse's job. “Both before and since the passage of the ADA, a majority of circuits have endorsed the proposition that in those jobs where performance requires attendance at the job, irregular attendance compromises essential job functions.” In general, the court said, regular on-site attendance is necessary in jobs where employees work as part of a team, where jobs require face-to-face interaction, or where employees work with equipment or items on-site.
The court concluded that the nurse’s “performance is predicated on her attendance" and that her employer "need not provide accommodations that compromise performance quality — to require a hospital to do so could, quite literally, be fatal.”
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