Employment-Eight Circuit Rules That A Rotating Shift Is An Essential Job Function, So A Plaintiff Unable To Work The Shift Cannot Claim Discrimination Under the ADA

In Kallail v. Alliant Energy Corporate Services, Inc., No. 11-2202 (8th Cir. 2012), the plaintiff, Terri Kallail (“Kallail”), had sued her employer, Alliant Energy Corporate Services, Inc. (“Alliant”), alleging disability discrimination which violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”). The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Alliant. Kallail appealed.

In this case, Kallail had worked for Alliant as a Resource Coordinator. Kallail has Type I diabetes. The diabetes made it difficult for Kallail to work as a Resource Coordinator. This resulted because Resource Coordinators had to work rotating shifts, in which they worked in teams of two on nine-week schedules that rotate between twelve-hour and eight-hour shifts, and day and night shifts. These shifts had an adverse effect on Kallail’s diabetes, since working the shifts resulted in the vacillation of Kallail’s blood pressure and blood sugar. Kallail requested that she be allowed to work a straight shift, as an accommodation for her disease, but Alliant turned down the request. Kallail eventually brought this suit, alleging that Alliant had discriminated against her based on disability, in violation of the ADA, by failing to provide her with a reasonable accommodation.

In analyzing the case, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals (the “Court”) stated that the ADA issue here is whether Kallail was able to perform the essential functions of her job, with or without reasonable accommodation. First, the Court concluded that the rotating shift was an essential function of the Resource Coordinator position, since it: (1) was listed as a requirement on Alliant’s job description for the position, (2) provided enhanced experience and training for the position, and (3) benefitted Alliant by spreading the less desirable shifts around to all persons serving as a Resource Coordinator. Next, the Court concluded that, in this case, Kallail could not perform the essential functions of the Resource Coordinator position, including the rotating shifts, even with a reasonable accommodation. Kallail had conceded that she could not perform those essential functions-when the rotating shifts are included- without reasonable accommodation due to her diabetes, and she could not otherwise identify any reasonable accommodation available to her. For example, an employer is not required to eliminate an essential job function-such as the rotating shifts-in order to create a reasonable accommodation. As such, the Court ruled that Kallail’s claim of discrimination against Alliant fails, and it upheld the district court’s summary judgment in Alliant’s favor.