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Employer Who Tried Everything Rightfully Wins the Day

Gloria Ortiz-Martinez worked as a social worker at Fresenius Health Partner’s dialysis center. As part of her duties, she was regularly required to write and document different parts of her work. In the course of her work, she suffered a hand injury. Using a doctor from the State Insurance Fund (SIF), she was placed on rest for one week. That week was extended for nearly a year, when she asked to return to work while continuing her treatment.

She reported to work on July 18, 2013, providing the SIF form with her injuries. No specific accommodations were identified that would help her perform her job duties. The supervisor asked for more information. In response, the SIF doctor listed her conditions and asserted that she had difficulty with repetitive tasks, lifting, pulling, holding, and gripping. Again, no accommodations were suggested other than rest periods nor were any specific weight ranges provided so that the employer could devise its own accommodations. The company tried numerous times to call Ms. Ortiz-Martinez to gather more information but she did not call back. A letter to her was sent and she was asked to contact the company about accommodations. She said she never received it. A union representative called her and told her that the company was trying to reach her. She denied ever receiving any calls or letters. Even though the union told her, she still did not contact her employer. Finally, a meeting was held and the company again asked for more information. Ms. Ortiz-Martinez referred them to SIF. They wrote to SIF and asked for specific restriction information. SIF did not respond so the company asked Ms. Ortiz-Martinez to help them get the information. She did not respond and did not return to work.

The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment for the company. Assuming Ms. Ortiz-Martinez had a disability within the meaning of the ADA, she had failed to engage in the interactive process. Both parties were obligated to engage in good faith meaningful discussions and she had failed to cooperate in the process. Fresenius was entitled to the specific information it sought to determine what was the appropriate accommodation. The employer cannot be held liable for failing to provide reasonable accommodations under those circumstances.