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Seventh Circuit Finds That Employer Provided Reasonable Accommodation to Legally Blind Employee

Recently, the Seventh Circuit determined that there was no disability discrimination in a case where a legally blind employee was shifted to a different position due to his failure to perform certain work functions.

ice-cream-845894-m.jpgIn Bunn v. Khoury Enterprises, Inc., Joshua Bunn worked as an hourly employee for Dairy Queen, owned and operated by Khoury Enterprises. Bunn was legally blind, with no vision in one eye and reduced vision in the other. Hired in September 2010, Bunn and other employees of his rank were required to rotate between the duty stations, including preparing ice cream and other food, working at the cash register, and keeping the dining area in good order. Bunn was first assigned to the station involved with preparing ice cream, but he was unable to perform certain duties without accommodation, due to the fact that the ingredient labels were too small, and monitors displaying the orders were placed too high for Bunn to see.

Finally, Bunn’s store manager trained him for the “Expo” station, where employees were responsible for delivering food to customers eating at the restaurant and for keeping the dining area clean. Bunn performed those duties without need for accommodation, so his manager arranged for him to be there full-time, as opposed to his coworkers, who continued to rotate. Otherwise, Bunn maintained the same hours as his coworkers, up until the point where he got suspended for 10 days due to ignoring the night manager’s request to put his cell phone away. Once Bunn returned to work, his hours were decreased reportedly due to the fact that business slowed down during the cold-weather months. Finally, Bunn submitted his resignation in February 2011, claiming that he could find more hours with another employer. He then filed a claim of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and eventually a lawsuit against Khoury Enterprises. The district court ruled in Khoury Enterprises’ favor, and Bunn appealed to the Seventh Circuit.

The Seventh Circuit found that Khoury Enterprises provided a reasonable accommodation for Bunn’s disability when the supervisor trained Bunn for the Expo station. The supervisor was making “modifications or adjustments” to the work environment, or to the manner or circumstances under which the position is normally performed, that enabled a qualified disabled person to perform “the essential functions of that position.” The Court further determined that it was irrelevant whether Bunn (or any employee) was dissatisfied with the arrangements made as long as the employer made reasonable accommodations.

The Seventh Circuit also disagreed that Bunn faced disparate treatment, noting that there was no proof that non-disabled employees were permitted to view their phones, while Bunn could not. Moreover, a manager telling an employee that he would schedule him for as many hours as “he saw fit” was simply exercising his position, not giving Bunn disparate treatment. Thus, the Seventh Circuit upheld the lower court’s ruling in favor of Khoury Enterprises.

Miller & Falkner is an Indiana and Kentucky plaintiffs law firm serving residents of Kentucky and Indiana. Located in Louisville, Kentucky, the firm provides representation in the areas of personal injury and employment law. If you need a Kentucky or Indiana employment law attorney, contact us today for a free consultation.

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