Academic journal article American Journal of Law & Medicine

Americans with Disabilities Act: State Mental Hospital Refuses to Accommodate A Psychologist-Webb V. Clyde L. Choate Mental Health and Development Center

Academic journal article American Journal of Law & Medicine

Americans with Disabilities Act: State Mental Hospital Refuses to Accommodate A Psychologist-Webb V. Clyde L. Choate Mental Health and Development Center

Article excerpt

Americans with Disabilities Act: State Mental Hospital Refuses to Accommodate A Psychologist-Webb v. Clyde L. Choate Mental Health and Development Center1-The Seventh Circuit held that an employer's refusal to accommodate an employee does not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") if the employee failed to prove he is disabled according to the ADA and if the employee failed to prove he can perform the functions of the employment position in controversy.2 Dr. Jeffrey Webb worked for Clyde L. Choate Mental Health and Development Center ("Choate") as a psychologist since 1982, and earned several promotions before achieving the rank of "Psychologist I" in 1995. During the course of his career at Choate, Webb suffered from asthma and took two leaves of absence. Webb's claim arose from the circumstances under which he attempted to resume his duties at Choate after his second leave in 1996.

Upon his return from sick leave, Webb requested eight accommodations to ameliorate asthma, osteoporosis and a weakened immune system. Choate complied with the first six, which included various measures to improve his comfort, access to medication and ability to attend doctor's appointments. Choate refused to arrange the last two accommodations: "exemption from intentional contact with patients displaying violent behavior" and "exemption from intentional contact with patients known to have infectious conditions."3 Choate argued that acquiescence to the last two requests would compromise the type of services Choate renders to its patients, and proceeded to discharge Webb.

Choate is a residential facility serving persons with development disability, including some with a penchant for sudden violence. Psychologist I staff members are expected to handle the random outbursts of unpredictable violence. Also, Psychologist I staff members perform the initial assessment of patients, which make it difficult to determine whether or not patients have been exposed to infectious diseases prior to contact with the employees.

The court first pondered whether or not Webb's condition qualified as a "disability" according to the ADA, which defines disability as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual."4 In past decisions, the court has considered individuals "substantially limited" when they are unable to perform, or are significantly restricted in performing, a major life activity. …

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