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The Unconscious Need Not Ask
Anthony Willoughby worked for Connecticut Container Corp. (CCC) in North Haven.

In 2009, Willoughby began to experience health problems and was diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure. He submitted a Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) form requesting leave due to a diabetes-related illness. When he returned to work, the side effects of his medications and workplace conditions sometimes made it difficult for him to do his job.

For example, about five months after his FMLA leave, he complained to his supervisor about being assigned to a job in a hot environment that required strenuous physical activity that he felt was too much for him. About two weeks later, he told his supervisor that he was not feeling well and had a pain in his foot, but his supervisor "brushed [him] off." A few hours later, after Willoughby failed to respond to pages, his supervisor discovered Willoughby sleeping in a chair. She sent him home.

Willoughby claims that he suffered from an episode of hypoglycemia and dehydration that caused him to pass-out. He immediately sought medical treatment, and his doctor indicated that Willoughby had "passed out due to low blood sugar." Nonetheless, CCC terminated Willoughby for sleeping on the job.

Willoughby then sued CCC, claiming that it failed to accommodate his disability in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). In reply, the company argued that it didn't have to accommodate him since he'd never overtly asked for an accommodation.

The Court ruled against CCC, finding that the company had notice of both Willoughby's disability and his need for an accommodation. "The evidence [Willoughby] has provided more than demonstrates that he did put [CCC] on notice that he had diabetes. Firstly, [he] submitted a Family Medical Leave Act form [stating that he] had been diagnosed with diabetes," the Court observed. "[His] doctor indicated that [Willoughby] had missed several days of work due to his diabetes-related illness...."

"Even if this did not somehow constitute reasonable notice to [CCC]," the Court continued, "this in combination with notice given by [Willoughby] in the immediate wake of his accident (both in the form of verbal comments to supervisors ... and in the form of additional doctor-signed medical documents...) and the fact of [Willoughby's] accident itself clearly constitutes notice."

"Thus, and contrary to [CCC's] arguments, there is no further requirement that [Willoughby] ask for accommodation under such circumstances," the Court concluded. "Given that [CCC] did in fact have notice of [Willoughby's] disability, and given that [CCC] did not, prior to [his] termination, engage with [him] in any sort of interactive process[,] a jury could permissibly find that [CCC] failed to provide reasonable accommodation under the ADA." [Willoughby v. Connecticut Container Corp. (USDC CT 2013) no. 3:11-CV-00992]

For information on this topic, request Memos:
5730 Employer Must Accommodate Disabled Persons
9800 Accommodation Policy
9801 Request for Disability Accommodation

Accommodating Workers With Disabilities (US)

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