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United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
November 9, 2022, Filed
[*1330] Brasher, Circuit Judge:
This appeal requires us to answer a question of first impression about the Rehabilitation Act. ] We have held that, to trigger an employer's duty to provide an accommodation under the Rehabilitation Act, a disabled employee must (1) make a specific demand for an accommodation and (2) demonstrate that such an accommodation is reasonable. Frazier-White v. Gee, 818 F.3d 1249, 1255-56 (11th Cir. 2016). But we have never addressed what information a disabled employee must provide to her employer to trigger the employer's duty to accommodate her disability.
This appeal presents that question. Following her c-section childbirth in July 2018, Nicole Owens informed her employer, the State of Georgia, Governor's Office of Student Achievement ("GOSA"), that she would need to work remotely for several months. In support [**2] of this request, Owens provided GOSA two notes from her physician, which mentioned Owens's c-section delivery, stated that she was "doing well," and concluded that she "may" telework until November 2018. Owens separately informed GOSA that she was seeking to telework due to childbirth-related "complications" but provided no detail about the nature of these complications or how they would be accommodated by teleworking. Finding this information insufficient to support Owens's accommodation request, GOSA asked Owens to either submit additional documentation or return to the office. When Owens failed to do either, GOSA terminated her employment.
Owens sued GOSA for (1) failure to accommodate in violation of the Rehabilitation Act; (2) retaliation in violation of the Rehabilitation Act; and (3) pregnancy discrimination under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The district court granted summary judgment for GOSA on all three claims. As to the first claim, the district court reasoned that Owens failed to establish a prima facie case of failure to accommodate because she never notified GOSA of her disability or connected that disability with her requested accommodation. As to the other claims, the district court concluded that Owens failed to establish [**3] that GOSA's proffered reasons for terminating her were pretext for discrimination.
We agree with the district court. ] We hold that, as part of her initial burden to establish that a requested accommodation is reasonable under the Rehabilitation Act, an employee must put her employer on notice of the disability for which she seeks an accommodation and provide enough information to allow her employer to understand how the accommodation she requests would assist her. Because Owens did not identify any disability from which she suffered or give GOSA any information about how her requested accommodation—teleworking—would accommodate that disability, the district court correctly granted summary judgment. We conclude that Owens's other claims fail for the lack of evidence that GOSA's proffered reasons for [*1331] terminating her were pretext for discrimination. Accordingly, we affirm.
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52 F.4th 1327 *; 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 31087 **; 29 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. C 1889
NICOLE OWENS, Plaintiff-Appellant, versus STATE OF GEORGIA, GOVERNOR'S OFFICE OF STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT, Defendant-Appellee.
Prior History: [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. D.C. Docket No. 1:19-cv-05683-MHC.
Owens v. Georgia, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 182610, 2021 WL 4286460 (N.D. Ga., Sept. 17, 2021)
accommodation, disability, teleworking, paperwork, return to work, reasonable accommodation, limitations, pretext, district court, complications, retaliation, trigger, firing, summary judgment, childbirth-related, c-section, remotely, employees, reasons, interactive process, prima facie case, documentation, pretextual, functions, pregnancy, pregnancy discrimination, blood transfusion, proffered reason, matter of law, terminating
Business & Corporate Compliance, Discrimination, Disability Discrimination, Rehabilitation Act, Civil Rights Law, Protection of Disabled Persons, Federal Employment & Services, Accommodations, Scope, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Allocation, Civil Procedure, Summary Judgment, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Appropriateness, Judgments, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Appellate Review, Standards of Review, Genuine Disputes, Legal Entitlement, Labor & Employment Law, Retaliation, Statutory Application, Remedies, Labor & Employment Law, Accommodation, Reasonable Accommodations, Interactive Process, Disabilities Under ADA, Mental & Physical Impairments, Major Life Activities, Scope & Definitions, Qualified Individuals With Disabilities, Substantial Limitations, Records of Impairments, Gender & Sex Discrimination, Parental Rights & Pregnancy, Burdens of Proof, Disparate Treatment, Evidence, Burden Shifting, Nonmovant Persuasion & Proof