The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination and ensure equal opportunities in various aspects of life, including employment.
However, despite its existence, individuals still face challenges, like securing reasonable accommodations and wrongful termination. One such case is of Samantha Howard, a pharmacist who encountered difficulties obtaining a service animal accommodation at Bothwell Regional Health Center.
The subsequent legal battle and verdict in Howard v. City of Sedalia, Mo. (Howard v. City of Sedalia, Mo., No. 2:21-cv-04034-MDH (W.D. Mo. Sept. 15, 2022)). shed light on the importance of upholding the ADA and making genuine efforts to accommodate individuals with disabilities.
Samantha Howard’s situation arose from her Type 1 diabetes condition, which caused hypoglycemic unawareness, a severe complication that posed risks to her health and safety. Recognizing the value of a service animal in managing her condition, Howard approached Bothwell’s executive director of human resources, Lisa Irwin, with a request to have a service dog by her side at work.
Bothwell responded to Howard’s request to form a team to investigate the matter further. The team’s assessment resulted in a denial, citing concerns about potential contamination and risks to patients. Despite Howard’s willingness to consider various mitigation measures, such as crating and regular brushing of the dog, the pharmacy rejected her request and instead offered alternative accommodations.
Legal Action and Verdict
Dissatisfied with the denial of her request and feeling that the offered accommodations were insufficient, Samantha Howard filed a lawsuit against the City of Sedalia, Mo., alleging a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The heart of Howard’s case revolved around the claim that the defendant failed to make a good-faith effort and did not adequately consult with her to identify a reasonable accommodation that would allow her to have a service animal.
After careful deliberation, the jury ruled in favor of Samantha Howard, awarding her more than $133,000. The verdict highlighted the importance of engaging in meaningful discussions with individuals requesting accommodations under the ADA and making genuine efforts to identify workable solutions.
Importance of the ADA
The ADA is crucial in promoting inclusivity and ensuring that individuals with disabilities have equal access to opportunities in the workplace. As this case demonstrates, ADA compliance goes beyond merely providing alternative arrangements; it necessitates a collaborative approach involving the individual requesting accommodations. Employers must work closely with employees to understand their unique needs and explore feasible solutions.
The case of Samantha Howard v. City of Sedalia, Mo. is a powerful reminder to employers and institutions about the significance of adhering to the ADA. When a qualified individual with a disability requests an accommodation, a good-faith effort must be made to evaluate and implement a reasonable solution. Collaboration and open dialogue between both parties is essential to finding the best course of action. Otherwise, the discriminated individuals might take the legal route to get their employee rights.
The outcome of Samantha Howard’s case illustrates the importance of the Americans with Disabilities Act in safeguarding the rights of individuals with disabilities. It emphasizes the need for employers and institutions to approach accommodation requests diligently and considerately. By working together to find suitable solutions, we can foster an inclusive environment where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.
As the case proceeds to appeal, it remains a pivotal moment for both employers and employees to recognize the importance of upholding the ADA and striving for genuine inclusivity. It also sets a precedent for people who face discrimination at work due to their disability, telling them that they can go to court to get their legal rights.
If you are facing a similar situation and considering suing your employer for discrimination, contact us at The Bourassa Law Group to get professional legal services in Colorado and Nevada. Call us today at 800-870-8910 for a free case evaluation to talk to our employee rights lawyer.
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