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Employers Need Not Ask
Jodie Kelley was a customer service associate at an Amazon.com call center in Kennewick, Washington. In 2009, her job performance began to decline, and Amazon subsequently placed her on several performance improvement plans (PIP). Ultimately, Amazon terminated her in 2011 for failing to meet the expectations outlined in her final PIP.

During her time at Amazon, Kelley experienced frequent migraine headaches and struggled with pain and other symptoms caused by endometriosis. As a result, she was permitted to take medical leave and her schedule was adjusted. However, Kelley believed that Amazon should have also adjusted her performance goals as an accommodation for her disabilities. So, she sued Amazon claiming that it failed to accommodate her as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The Court ruled against the disabled employee. "[Kelley] alleges that Amazon violated the ADA ... by failing to participate in the 'interactive process' upon learning of her disabilities. As a result of this failure, [she] contends, Amazon never learned that her deficient job performance ... was caused by her migraines and endometriosis."

[Kelley's] argument is unavailing," the Court ruled. "It is undisputed that [Kelley] never notified Amazon of a possible connection between her performance problems and her disabilities. As a result, Amazon had no reason to know that a performance-related accommodation may have been in order."

"[Kelley] had multiple opportunities to discuss a possible connection with Amazon while she was being counseled about her deficient performance," the Court observed. "Amazon was not obligated to affirmatively explore a connection between her performance problems and her disabilities."

The Court cited guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): "Generally, it is inappropriate for the employer to focus discussion about a performance or conduct problem on an employee's disability," wrote the EEOC. "Nor should an employee expect an employer to raise the issue of the possible need for reasonable accommodation, even when a disability is known or obvious."

"[A]n employee may not simply inform her employer that she suffers from a disability and assume that the employer will discover (and subsequently accommodate) each and every limitation caused by the disability," the Court concluded. "Given that [Kelley] did not specifically advise Amazon of a possible connection between her deficient performance and her disabilities, Amazon was not required to accommodate [her] as a matter of law." [Kelley v. Amazon.com (USDC EDWA 2013) no. 12-CV-5132]

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

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Accommodating Workers With Disabilities (US)

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