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3/22/2018 12:00 AM

Diana Aviv has resigned from her role as CEO of Feeding America for personal reasons, effective immediately.

3/10/2018 12:00 AM

The Office Depot has cut ties with the Office Depot Foundation, which served as the company’s primary charitable giving vehicle for more than two decades.

Conferences and Events
3/3/2018 12:00 AM

The Washington Non-Profit Legal & Tax Conference will be held March 22–23 in Washington, D.C.

7/20/2015 12:00 AM

A man employed by an Oregon school district lost his lawsuit claiming violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act after his return to work after an injury.

In 2010, Douglas Rider—the lead carpenter at the Lincoln County School District—injured his back while performing a district roofing project.

In April 2011, a neurosurgeon performed surgery on Rider’s back. A few days later, he released Rider with orders limiting him to lifting no more than five pounds, and to performing repetitive activity for no more than two hours.

In August, the doctor increased his lifting restriction to 50 pounds.

When Rider returned to work in September, he asked for assistance in lifting over 50 pounds. The district replied that the accommodation was unreasonable and asked Rider to have his doctor fill out a questionnaire assessing his ability to perform certain essential job functions.

Rider refused that request and instead presented the district with a new work release from his doctor that indicated a permanent work restriction of not lifting or carrying more than 50 pounds.

Eight months later, he presented the district with a report from his doctor dated May 30, 2012, stating that Rider had no workplace restrictions if he wore a back brace and used common sense.

Rider returned to work without accommodations. However, he requested assistance in September because his back was hurting.

In October, Rider refused the district’s request to submit to a fitness-for-duty evaluation by another doctor. That same month, the district communicated to Rider that it would not accommodate him unless he provided a medical opinion specifying appropriate restrictions.

Instead of providing such a report, Rider filed a suit against the district claiming that it had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to engage in a good-faith interactive process.

The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment.

EMPLOYER WINS [put arrow here]

District Judge Ann Aiken ruled that an employee was not entitled to refuse to provide information critical to a meaningful interactive process and then later protest that he was unfairly deprived of accommodations. She also held that an employee could not refuse to provide reasonable medical documentation of his need for accommodations when requested by the employer.

The judge decided that the district’s request for an opinion from Rider’s doctor—and also its request for an independent medical examination—were reasonable, and that Rider had no right to refuse either of them.

Judge Aiken held that the full work release from Rider’s doctor in May 2012 established that he no longer required accommodations to perform the essential functions of his job. Ruling that the district’s requests for more detailed explanations of how his disability would impact his ability to perform essential job functions constituted a good-faith effort to seek reasonable accommodations, she decided that Rider’s failure to provide responsive information was fatal to his claim since there was no further information from any other experts about any workplace restrictions.

She granted summary judgment in favor of the district.

[Rider v. Lincoln County School District, U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, No. 6:13-cv-02299, 02/24/15].

6/20/2015 12:00 AM

A federal court ruled against an injured firefighter who said he was fired due to a disability.

In 1991, Danny Wisner became a Sioux City firefighter. In 2004, he was granted a disability retirement because of a heart condition. While still receiving those firefighter disability benefits, he became a maintenance worker for the same city after passing a pre-employment physical without restriction.

Approximately six months later, the city fired him. It claimed that Wisner: (1) did not meet performance expectations, (2) lacked motivation to learn his responsibilities and (3) required a great deal of direct supervision to keep him motivated.

He then sued the city and others, asserting a claim of violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and a defamation claim.

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss.

They first argued that Wisner was not “disabled” within the meaning of the ADA with respect to the maintenance job because: (1) he passed the physical exam, (2) he never claimed that any physical or mental condition prevented him from performing the essential functions of his job and (3) he never requested any type of accommodation for any reason.

Wisner responded that his disability-discrimination claim was based on continuing bias he faced from the city because he was perceived by his supervisors as “double dipping” by continuing to draw firefighter disability benefits at the same time he was a maintenance worker.

EMPLOYER WINS [put arrow here]

District Judge Donald O’Brien ruled that even if the defendants had done exactly what Wisner claimed, that did not violate the ADA. Because Wisner had failed to allege either a disability that affected his job or a request for an accommodation, the judge dismissed the claim.

With respect to his defamation claim, Wisner argued that he had been defamed because he would forever be forced to put on future job applications that he had been fired.

The judge said that defamation consisted of a malicious publication—expressed either orally or in writing—that tended to injure the reputation of a person or to expose that person to public hatred, contempt or ridicule.

But Judge O’Brien ruled that the firing of an employee was not inherently defamatory. He stated that for an action for defamation to proceed against an employer, there had to be publication by the employer of defamatory commentary about the employee to a third party. He explained that even if the city had fired Wisner for an unlawful reason, that alone would not amount to defamation unless the details were communicated by the city to others, and Wisner had failed to allege that the city had published anything about Wisner to anyone.

With respect to Wisner’s argument that being forced to report his discharge to potential employers amounted to defamation, the judge said that the information about the termination was true, and that truth was a defense to a defamation claim.

Judge O’Brien dismissed the claims.

[Wisner v. City of Sioux City, et al., U.S. District Court for the District of Iowa, No. 14-CV-4031, 03/21/2015].

5/22/2015 12:00 AM

A judge ruled a case would go to jury in which a woman claimed she was fired due to her disability.

Norma Childers had interstitial cystitis, which caused her to use the restroom as much as 20 times an hour. She also had diverticulosis and irritable bowel syndrome, which caused her to experience extremes between constipation and diarrhea.

When she became an administrator at the Hardeman County Learning Center in 2008, its open layout allowed her to take breaks while others monitored the students.

Shortly before he retired in June 2012, the director of the school board notified Childers that budget cuts required her to be reassigned to a classroom teacher position at Bolivar Middle School for the upcoming school year.

Childers met with the new director in July 2012 and told him that she would have to consult with her doctors before deciding whether to accept the reassignment.

A couple of weeks later, Childers told him that her physicians had decided she would not be able to teach in the classroom and that they would provide letters explaining her restrictions.

After the doctors submitted reports detailing her conditions and restrictions, Childers met with the new director right before school was ready to start. Childers claimed that there was no discussion of accommodations in that meeting and that the new director told her: (1) the letters were irrelevant and (2) she should go home if she was sick.

The new director denied saying those things and claimed he told Childers that she could be placed in a classroom that was close to a private restroom, and that she would be allowed to sit as needed.

In a letter to the new director dated July 30, Childers stated that the reassignment to Bolivar Middle School would force her into early retirement.

Childers never reported to Bolivar Middle School. Without contacting its principal to find out if accommodations were available, she retired.

Childers sued the board, claiming violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The board filed a motion for summary judgment.

District Judge J. Daniel Breen ruled that Childers was clearly disabled under the ADA, and also that her requests were sufficient to trigger a duty to provide a reasonable accommodation. However, he explained that the dispute centered on who was responsible for the breakdown in the interactive process.

The board argued that it was never given the opportunity to accommodate Childers because she never reported to the new school, and that the real reason she retired was that the reassignment involved less salary.

EMPLOYEE WINS [put arrow here]

The judge ruled that a jury who believed Childers could reasonably conclude that the board failed to make a good-faith effort to accommodate her disability, and that she retired because of it.

Since the parties offered conflicting testimony about who was at fault for the interactive process breaking down, Judge Breen denied the board’s motion and ruled that a jury would sort it out.

[Childers v. Hardeman County Board of Education, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, No. 13-1209, 01/15/2015].


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