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Eleventh Circuit Requires Adverse Action For ADA Violation

Teddy Beasley is a deaf man who understands about 30% of verbal communication and primarily communicates through sign language. He worked for O'Reilly Auto Parts, where Beasley requested an ASL interpreter as an accommodation for meetings, training, and a company picnic. The company did not provide him with an interpreter. He also asked for text messages summarizing nightly pre-shift meetings, which he did not receive. Those nightly meetings were mandatory and included safety information. The company said Beasley took time off without approval, which he disputed. Because he did not have an interpreter during a meeting about the time off, Beasley says the resulting discipline affected his attendance record, which, in turn, would impact his pay. After resigning his employment, Beasley filed a lawsuit alleging a failure to accommodate in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals heard the case. Under the ADA, employers must make reasonable accommodations for the known physical or mental limitations of qualified employees with a disability unless it would impose an undue hardship. The circuit court held that a failure to accommodate is actionable only if that failure “negatively impacts the employee’s hiring, advancement, discharge, compensation, training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of his employment.” Simply, employees must show that the failure to accommodate resulted in an adverse employment action. For Beasley, the court determined there was a material issue of fact as to whether the denied accommodation led to a lower pay increase, which would be a form of adverse employment action. The Eleventh Circuit's decision creates a split among federal courts. The Tenth Circuit has ruled that no adverse employment action is required, whereas the Eighth Circuit was in accord with the Eleventh Circuit.