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].