Appeals court rejects a disability discrimination claim

An appeals court rejects a disability discrimination claim premised upon the employee’s assertion that the employer failed to accommodate her alleged disability- a purported work-related stress disorder caused by working for a particular supervisor. The employee, who was terminated when she refused to return to work, asserted that the employer was required to accommodate her by assigning her to another supervisor. The court found that the employee failed to establish a disability within the meaning of the state disability statute at issue holding that an employee’s “inability to work under a particular supervisor because of anxiety and stress related to the supervisor‟s standard oversight of the employee’s job performance” did not constitute a disability. This holding is consistent with federal decisions considering the issue under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Even if the “boss-induced” stress constituted a legal disability, the employer would arguably not be required to reassign the individual to another supervisor.

This should not be confused with a situation where the employee’s diagnosed stress disorder is the result of working in a particular job position as opposed to a particular supervisor. Under such circumstances, the disorder may be considered a legal disability and an employer may be required to reassign the employee to a vacant position (the employer would not be required to create a position) for which the employee qualifies.