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Employee’s Pain May Be Entitled to Accommodation

A disabled teacher who requested an aide to help in his classroom to minimize his pain was entitled to reasonable accommodation.
Brien O. Hill had an amputated leg and wore a leg prosthesis. While teaching at a school run by Associate for Renewal in Education, Inc. (ARE), he injured his prosthesis. As a result, he experienced significant pain and bruising when standing for long periods of time. Because he was a teacher and program aide working in a three-story building with no elevator, this pain was a large problem. He requested and was granted an aide as well as allowed to teach on the second floor of his building. A few months later, however, he was moved to the third floor and was not assigned an aide. The other teachers in his program did receive an aide and Mr. Hill’s class was larger. Mr. Hill protested the decision, asserting his need for a lower floor and an aide. Around the same time as his request was denied, he was written up for disciplinary issues. Mr. Hill was fired.
The District of Columbia Circuit Court heard the case. Mr. Hill had alleged that ARE failed to accommodate him as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Thus, he had to show that he was disabled, that the employer knew of the disability, that he could perform the essential functions of his job with or without accommodation, and that the employer refused to make the accommodation. The appellate court determined that Mr. Hill demonstrated that his pain and bruising from standing without assistance from an aide arose out of his disability and the request for an aide was to help him perform the essential functions of his position. “[A] reasonable jury could conclude that forcing Hill to work with pain when that pain could be alleviated by his requested accommodation violates the ADA.” An aide would have helped him supervise students and outdoor activities, thus reducing the need for long periods of standing and minimizing his pain. Whether an aide was a reasonable accommodation was up to a jury but the court asserted that an aide would enable Mr. Hill to perform the essential functions of his job.