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Byrne v. Avon Prods. - 328 F.3d 379 (7th Cir. 2003)

Rule:

Time off may be an apt accommodation for intermittent conditions. Someone with arthritis or lupus may be able to do a given job even if, for brief periods, the inflammation is so painful that the person must stay home. The rather common-sense idea is that if one is not able to be at work, one cannot be a qualified individual. Spotty attendance by itself may show lack of qualification. Inability to work for a multi-month period removes a person from the class protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Facts:

After more than four years of highly regarded service on the night shift, employee John Byrne started to read and sleep on the job, and was fired for that and for not attending a meeting. Two months of treatment enabled him to surmount his mental difficulties. He sued when the employer would not take him back.

Issue:

Did the district court err in granting summary judgment to the employer?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

Regarding the ADA, his proposed accommodation was not working for an extended time, which he confessed would not make him a "qualified individual with a disability" in late 1998. The FMLA afforded those who could not work as a result of a "serious health condition" up to 12 weeks yearly leave. His condition was serious, and he was ready to work before the 12 weeks ran out. If a trier of fact believed either (a) that the change in behavior was enough to notify a reasonable employer that he suffered from a serious health condition, or (b) that he was mentally unable either to work or give notice early in November 1998, then he would have been entitled to FMLA leave for the period treated as misconduct. Either possibility would have entitled him to reinstatement. The district court did not consider the possibility that his last two weeks should have been reclassified as FMLA leave.

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