$2 Million Jury Award to Teacher With Seasonal Affective Disorder Wins Case Over Denial of Windowed Room

A recent Wisconsin federal court decision serves as a victory for those discriminated against due to depression. In Ekstrand v. School Dist. of Somerset, a jury determined that a school district should pay a schoolteacher more than $2 million for failing to provide her with a classroom window because she has seasonal affective disorder (“SAD”).

Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”) if you are a qualified individual with a disability, your employer must make an effort to reasonable accommodate your disability. Accommodations can be simple – such as changing your start time by a few minutes or altering your workspace. If your employer fails to accommodate you, in most cases it is possible to file an ADA discrimination charge. However, in instances where the request is too expensive or burdensome, accommodations may not be required.

In Ekstrand, after working several years for the school district, a teacher was moved to a room with no windows. Even though she told the school district that she had SAD, a form of depression that occurs based on a lack of exposure to natural light, the school failed to “reasonably accommodate” when requested by moving her to a classroom with windows.

Although the amount the teacher will receive was reduced due to caps on damages, the verdict sends a message to employers that depression and other disabilities must be taken seriously and accommodated where reasonable.

For more information, or if your employer has taken an adverse action against you or failed to reasonably accommodate your disability, contact Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP, a Georgia law firm committed to defending worker’s rights.