An employer’s losing a summary judgment motion in an employment case is one thing; for a plaintiff to win summary judgment is quite another. Such was the case in Lafata v. Dearborn Heights School District No. 7 (E.D. MI December 11, 2013), where a court rejected an employer’s defense that it “had a right to rely on” its doctor’s opinion concerning an applicant’s medical restrictions to determine that the applicant could not perform some of the essential functions of the job.
During the post-offer physical, the district’s doctor diagnosed plaintiff with a genetic disorder that causes muscle deterioration and gradual loss of strength. Both the applicant and his personal doctor said that he had sufficient strength to do the job. In his report, the employer’s doctor recommended that plaintiff only do “ground level” work and recommended a lifting restriction. The district withdrew the offer of employment.
In rejecting the employer’s “right to rely” argument, the court said neither the doctor nor the district considered that the plaintiff was then, and had been for ten years, a building superintendent; or the assertion by plaintiff and his doctor that he had sufficient strength to do the job; or whether the employer could provide a reasonable accommodation that would enable him to do the job.
The district “had a duty to review [its doctor’s] report to assure itself that his examination and analysis were thorough and/or reasonable,” according to the court. Since it did not do so, it had “no basis to evaluate whether the restrictions were reasonably based on plaintiff’s actual physical limitations,” the court concluded.
Since there was no evidence to support the district’s position that the applicant could not do the job, with or without accommodation, the court granted summary judgment to the plaintiff.