Issue: Katy, a long-time sales clerk, applied for the position of assistant store manager. Even though Katy was the best qualified applicant, the store owner decided to promote another employee after learning that Katy doesn’t have a driver’s license because of her epilepsy. The store owner told Katy that she was not promoted because she was unable to drive the store receipts to the bank. Is this a valid reason for not promoting her?
Answer: Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations (adjustments or modifications) to enable applicants and employees with disabilities to enjoy equal employment opportunities unless doing so would be an undue hardship (a significant difficulty or expense). An employer must provide a reasonable accommodation that is needed because of the epilepsy itself, the effects of medication, or both.
In this instance, depositing the store receipts in a safe and timely manner, not driving the store receipts to the bank, is an actual function of the job. Before deciding not to promote her, the store owner should have determined whether driving was an essential job function or whether Katy could have done the job with a reasonable accommodation (for example, having another employee drive her or paying for her to take a taxi). Because driving was not an essential function of an assistant store manager, the fact that Katy was an individual with epilepsy who did not have a driver’s license cannot be used to deny her an employment opportunity.
Source: EEOC Publication: Revised Questions and Answers about Epilepsy in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act, http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/epilepsy.cfm, reported in Employment Practices Guide, New Developments