Rejecting bookkeeper's reasonable accommodation appeal, 9th Circuit distinguishes Abercrombie from ADA precedent
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Monday, April 18, 2016

Rejecting bookkeeper's reasonable accommodation appeal, 9th Circuit distinguishes Abercrombie from ADA precedent

By Brandi O. Brown, J.D. Concluding that the district court properly granted summary judgment to the Archbishop in a parish bookkeeper's ADA suit, the Ninth Circuit took the opportunity to address the effect of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc., decision on its ADA decisions. The court noted that the bookkeeper's claims were distinguishable because they were made under the ADA. The district court's decision was affirmed (Mendoza v. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles, April 14, 2016, per curiam). During absence, pastor rethinks position. The underlying lawsuit involved the claims of a parish bookkeeper who, after a ten-month period of sick leave, returned to work and was told that there was no longer a full-time position. According to the employer, the church pastor had taken over the bookkeeping duties during her absence and concluded that the job could be done on a part-time basis. The employee declined to work part-time. The district court granted summary judgment to the employer on the employee's disability discrimination and disparate treatment claims, concluding that the employee failed to raise a triable dispute regarding whether the employer's reason for not returning her to full-time employment was pretextual. The employee appealed. Effect of Abercrombie & Fitch. Immediately out of the box, the appeals court explained that the U.S. Supreme Court's recent Abercrombie & Fitch decision had no effect on its analysis. In that Title VII case, the court explained, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the plaintiff needed only to show that the need for a religious accommodation was a factor motivating the employer's decision and that knowledge was not a requirement of a Title VII claim. The bookkeeper's claims here were "distinguishable" because she had alleged violations of the ADA, "which defines discrimination 'to include an employer's failure to make 'reasonable accommodation[] to the known physical or mental limitations.''" Therefore, the court took the opportunity to reiterate that its ADA decisions, "which require a plaintiff who alleges disparate treatment to show that a discriminatory reason more likely than not motivated the defendant, remain good law." The employee failed to establish that a full-time position was available as a reasonable accommodation, the court concluded, and thus the district court properly granted summary judgment on her reasonable accommodation claim. The district court's judgment was affirmed.

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