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Autistic Employee Was Not Qualified Individual Under ADA

Brian Preston was hired as a senior financial analyst by Great Lakes Specialty Finance, Inc. During 2012, the same year as his hire, Mr. Preston was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. It caused him to have heightened sensory sensitivities to visual and audio stimuli. He did not tell his employer of the diagnosis but rather tried to cope on his own. After several months, Mr. Preston approached his supervisor and told him about the heightened sensitivity. The supervisor told him to go to HR to request accommodation but Mr. Preston waited another month. Once HR was notified and a meeting was set up, Mr. Preston obtained a letter from his treating psychiatrist. The letter stated that Mr. Preston would be more productive in an isolated working environment, ideally from home.

The company allowed Mr. Preston to work from home four days a week and required that he be present in the office for the full day on Mondays. On Mondays, weekly analyst meetings were held and his presence would be required for those meetings as well as other face-to-face interactions. Mr. Preston’s difficulties at work did not subside even with the accommodation and he was unable to complete his work by established deadlines. Mr. Preston was terminated.

Before the federal district court, the employer argued that Mr. Preston “regularly took over twice as long as the initial given time span to complete projects.” Great Lakes also expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of his work as it contained substantial errors. It disputed that Mr. Preston was qualified for his job under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The court found that the accommodation provided by Great Lakes was sufficient under the ADA’s “reasonable accommodation” standard. Since Mr. Preston could not perform the essential functions of his position with or without accommodation, he was not qualified for the position and his claim failed.