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No ADA Claim Where Schedule Accommodation Contravenes Essential Functions

Victor Sepulveda-Vargas worked as an assistant manager for a Burger King owned and operated by Caribbean Restaurants, LLC in Puerto Rico. Following an attack at gunpoint while making a deposit for Caribbean, Mr. Vargas was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression. When Mr. Vargas was able to return to work, he requested, as an accommodation, a fixed schedule and assignment at a lower crime location. All managers working for Caribbean rotated their schedules among the three shifts set at the restaurants.
Caribbean initially granted Mr. Vargas’ request because it believed it was required to do so under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, once the company concluded that it did not have it, it assigned Mr. Vargas once again to rotating managerial shifts. Mr. Vargas resigned and sued for violation of the ADA.
The central inquiry of the case was whether rotating shift assignments were an essential function of the assistant manager position. The ADA offers protection to disabled individuals that are able to perform the essential functions of their position with or without accommodation. The First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that, in this instance, working each of the shifts was an essential function. The advertisements for the assistant manager positions included the shift requirement, all of the other assistant managers worked rotating shifts, and it was contained in the written job description. All of these facts supported Caribbean’s assertion that it was an essential function. The fact that the company mistakenly believed it had to offer Mr. Vargas a fixed schedule, and that it did in fact let him work one, did not waive its right to assert that it was an essential function. The appellate court emphasized that the question of “essential function” was always fact specific to the position at issue. There was no ADA violation here.