Nixon-Tinkelman v. New York City Dep’t of Health and Mental Hygiene Determines Employer May Be Required To Help With Commute Under The ADA

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) prohibit disability discrimination against individuals with a disability in the terms and conditions of employment. This includes people with any medical, physiological, or psychiatric condition that substantially limits a major life activity. As part of the ADA and ADAAA employers are required to make an effort to “reasonably accommodate” qualified individuals with disabilities. To “reasonably accommodate” means different actions in different work situations, but has been found to include changing your starting work time by a couple of minutes, making alterations to your workspace, or giving you a phone amplifier if you are hard of hearing.

In a recent New York case, Nixon-Tinkelman v. New York City Dep’t of Health and Mental Hygiene, a woman who is hearing-impaired and has cancer, heart problems, and asthma claimed she suffered disability discrimination when her employer failed to accommodate her by assisting with her commute after transferring her place of work from Queens to Manhattan. The trial court had determined that because commuting falls outside of the scope of a person’s job, assisting with Nixon-Tinkelman’s commute was not required under the ADA.

The appeals court disagreed, stating “[A]n employer may have an obligation to assist with an employee’s commute….[T]here is nothing inherently unreasonable … in requiring an employer to furnish an otherwise qualified disabled employee with assistance related to her ability to get to work.” The court also noted that the actions necessary to accommodate a commute vary on a case-by-case basis, so what is “reasonable” depends on each individual’s situation.

Here, Nixon-Tinkelman had worked in a more suitable location for many years before her employer decided to transfer her, so the district court should have considered whether her employer could have complied with the ADA by transferring her back to her original location, providing the option to work at home, or even giving her a car to get to work.

If you have a disability or other serious medical condition you may be protected by the ADA and ADAAA. This means that your employer must take steps to reasonably accommodate your disability. The failure to make an effort to take reasonable steps may constitute a violation.

If you have questions about the ADA, ADAAA, or believe you may have been discriminated against, contact our dedicated Atlanta disability discrimination lawyers. Our Georgia employment attorneys at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP are very experienced in disability cases and will fight to eradicate disability discrimination in your workplace.