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Failure to Engage In Interactive Process Cannot Alone Support ADA Claim

Paul Stewart was a short-term employee at AutoRevo. Four months into his employment as a national dealer consultant, he provided the company with a doctor’s note stating Mr. Stewart “would benefit from being able to work from home especially while he is being treated for an acute musculoskeletal issue that requires sedating medications.” AutoRevo claims it responded to this request by telling Mr. Stewart that it was concerned about the medication and had never allowed anyone to work from home indefinitely. Mr. Stewart has asserted that AutoRevo refused to accommodate his request and regarded his medications as so impairing that he could not make calls or drive a car. Mr. Stewart sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII.

According to a federal district court in Texas, failure to engage in the interactive process utilized under the ADA is not a violation of the statute in and of itself. Rather, the ADA violation is the resulting failure to accommodate. Thus, AutoRevo’s failure to engage in an interactive discussion would not support an ADA claim. Moreover, Mr. Stewart failed to allege sufficient facts to evidence that his back and neck condition rose to the level of a physical impairment and substantially impacted a major life activity. Without actual disability, his claim failed. Mr. Stewart also failed to provide sufficient facts to support a claim that the company perceived him as having a physical impairment, thus losing on the regarded as disabled protection under the statute.

With respect to Mr. Stewart’s claim that he was discriminated against based on his race, the court did not find enough facts offered to support such an inference. He was unable to point to one non-African-American disabled AutoRevo employee who was treated any more favorably that he was. The fact that his replacement was white was insufficient under the facts of this case.