Handicap Discrimination Claim Succeeds Against Wal-Mart

Handicap discrimination claims continue to make headlines. Patrick Brady, who suffers from cerebral palsy, worked at Wal-Mart as a pharmacy assistant. In joining Wal-Mart, Brady brought with him two years of experience working at a local pharmacy. Despite being qualified, Brady’s supervisor stripped him of his pharmacy assistant functions and transferred him to the personnel department.

No longer a pharmacy assistant, Brady eventually resigned and filed suit against Wal-Mart for failing failing to participate in the interactive process and refusing to accommodate his disability. Amazingly, although plainly evident that Brady’s cerebral palsy impaired his motor skills, Wal-Mart argued that it had no obligation to accommodate his disability. As expected, the court disagreed. Indeed, while the burden generally lies with employees to inform the employer of the need for an accommodation, the burden shifts to the employer where the disability is obvious, as in Brady’s case:

[A] situation in which an employer perceives an employee to be disabled but the employee does not so perceive himself presents an even stronger case for mitigating the requirement that the employee seek accommodation. In such situations, the disability is obviously known to the employer, while the employee, because he does not consider himself to be disabled, is in no position to ask for an accommodation. A requirement that such an employee ask for accommodation would be tantamount to nullifying the statutory mandate of accommodation for one entire class of disabled (as that term is used in the ADA) employees. We therefore hold that an employer has a duty reasonably to accommodate an employee’s disability if the disability is obvious-which is to say, if the employer knew or reasonably should have known that the employee was disabled.

For more information, please visit the Second Circuit’s full opinion in Brady v. Wal-Mart