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Unreasonableness Not Grounds to Avoid ADA Interactive Process

Rachel Garrison worked as a lead sales associate at a Dollar General Store. Garrison was a key holder for her store, requiring her to coordinate her schedule with the other three key holders so that one of them was always present when the store was opened and closed. Garrison was experiencing deteriorating anxiety, migraines, and depression. She reached out to her supervisor, Sandra Bell, to find out how she could request a leave of absence. After she did not hear back a week later, Garrison again texted her supervisor. When Bell finally responded, she advised Garrison that there would not be a leave of absence and that Garrison could stay at Dollar as long as she could “do the job and not be sick all the time.” Bell also suggested that Garrison read the employee handbook. When Garrison and Bell met in person, Garrison directly asked for a leave to which Bell responded that leave was not available. The next week, Garrison missed a shift due to an emergency room visit. She then asked for vacation for the remainder of the week but Bell refused because there would not be sufficient key holders. Garrison quit to address her health issues. She was replaced by an employee hired after Garrison had brought up the subject of leave.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Garrison’s claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The issues in dispute were whether Garrison provided the company with enough information to put it on notice that she had a disability and that she wanted an accommodation. With regard to the first part, Garrison had shared her health problems with her supervisor, the medication she was taking, and let Bell know when she was going to doctor’s appointments. Moreover, Bell’s responses made it clear that she understood that Garrison’s absences were due to medical issues. On the issue of accommodation, while Garrison never specifically asked for an accommodation other than requesting leave, she did not need to according to the court. “Dollar General had an obligation to ‘take some initiative’ and identify a reasonable accommodation.” In this case, Dollar rejected Garrison’s request and did little else. There had been evidence that some accommodation may have been possible. Her FMLA claim failed because Garrison did not follow company policy to initiate leave.