An employee with systemic lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disease, worked as a Michigan hospital pharmacy technician.  She had two primary job duties: (1) “unit dose dispensing,” or dispensing medications to patients, and (2) “intravenous admixture,” which was creating injectable mixtures to be delivered to patients.

The dispensing duties required more standing (which, she claimed, made her symptoms worse), than the intravenous admixture duties, which were supposedly less demanding.  Indeed, a pharmacist testified that dispensing medications required standing about 81% of the time, compared to creating admixtures which required walking or standing only about half the time. 9581352_s

Plaintiff therefore asked to be permitted to do just the intravenous admixture duties.  However, claiming (among other things) that the admixture duties were, in fact, no less demanding than the dispensing duties, the hospital contended that this was not, in effect, a reasonable accommodation as required under the ADA.  It claimed that both jobs required the same amount of physical exertion and that if Plaintiff could not perform one job she could not perform the other.  It denied her request, so she walked off the job and was fired, and then started legal action.

The federal court in Michigan ruled that summary judgment in favor of the hospital was not appropriate, stating that “While [the hospital] states that Plaintiff’s request to be assigned to the [the admixture] job instead of the dispensing job was not a request for reasonable accommodation, as the jobs had equal physical demands, Plaintiff has introduced evidence that suggests otherwise.” Given the existence of issues of material fact, the Court ruled that this would be left to a jury.

We wonder about the legal sufficiency of the hospital raising the comparative demands of the two jobs as part of its defense:  is it, in fact, a good defense?  And we wonder about the necessity of Plaintiff having to introduce testimony intending to show that the requested job was less demanding.  The Court never answered these questions, and cited no caselaw; finding issues of fact, the Court was able to avoid the issue.