Whenever a court holds that coming to work is an essential function of an on-site job, it is worthy noting given what seems to be frequent challenges to this common sense principle. In Mecca v. Florida Health Services Center, Inc. (M.D. FL, February 3, 2014). the court held that coming to work is an essential function of a “PICC” nurse. The nurse’s primary responsibility was to insert intravenous catheters through a patient’s vein until its tip rests next to the patient’s heart.
The plaintiff had panic attacks and anxiety and was granted leave numerous times. As an accommodation, he sought to be able “to go home or be absent from work if he was experiencing episodic flare-ups of depression and anxiety/panic making it difficult to function.” The court noted that “a request to arrive at work at any time, without reprimand, is not a reasonable accommodation because it would change the essential functions of a job that requires punctual attendance.”
The court also noted that “indefinite and indeterminable leave is not a reasonable accommodation…[because] [a]n employer does not have to wait indefinitely for an employee’s medical condition to be corrected, especially when it is uncertain whether the condition will improve.” The plaintiff had not provided “any estimate as to when or if his condition will improve.” Because no accommodation would enable the plaintiff to have punctual attendance, he was not a qualified individual with a disability. The court granted the employer’s motion for summary judgment.
We have posted about other decisions concerning attendance as an essential function. See here and here. Employers who believe “regular and predictable attendance” is an essential function of a position(s) should communicate that requirement to employees at every opportunity.