Employment-Second Circuit Rules That The District Court Needs To Conduct A Factual Analysis To Determine If Timely Arrival At Work Is An Essential Job Function

In McMillan v. City of New York, Docket No. 11-3932 (2nd Cir. 2013), the plaintiff, Rodney McMillan, was appealing the district court’s summary judgment in favor of the City of New York (“New York”) on McMillan’s disability discrimination and failure to accommodate claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (the “ADA”).

In analyzing the case, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals (the “Court”) said that it was undisputed that McMillan’s severe disability- schizophrenia- required treatment that prevented him from arriving to work at a consistent time each day. In many, if not most, employment, a timely arrival is an essential function of the position, and a plaintiff’s inability to arrive on time would result in his failure to establish a fundamental element of a prima facie case of employment discrimination.

Here, however, drawing all reasonable inferences in McMillan’s favor–as the Court must at the summary judgment stage–it is not evident that a timely arrival at work is an essential function of McMillan’s job, so long as he is able to offset the time missed due to tardiness with additional hours worked to complete the actual essential functions of his job. The problem according to the Court: the district court did not conduct a sufficiently detailed analysis of the facts that tend to undermine New York’s claim that a specific arrival time is an essential function of McMillan’s position before granting summary judgment. As such, the Court overturned the district court’s summary judgment, and remanded the case back to the district court.