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Telling supervisor to back off not ADA ‘accommodation’

Karl Larson may not be the first employee to think his job would be fine if his supervisor would just leave him alone.

Larson sued to make that happen. He said he suffered post-traumatic stress after a “verbal altercation” with his supervisor and he filed a disability discrimination suit asking the court to order the supervisor to stay away.

Larson was a human resources manager for the Virginia Department of Transportation. He alleged he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress after a confrontation with district administrator Quintin Elliott. In his lawsuit filed in Harrisonburg U.S. District Court, Larson alleged Elliott “verbally assaulted” him, and made him fear for his safety.

After the PTSD diagnosis, Larson left work for several weeks. He did not want to return to work unless he could avoid immediate contact with Elliott. Larson tried to meet with VDOT officials to discuss his “proposal,” but they refused to consider any arrangement that did not require Larson to work with Elliott. VDOT terminated Larson and he sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

There’s black letter law that demanding not to work with or report to a supervisor is not “reasonable” as an accommodation under the ADA, according to U.S. District Judge Samuel G. Wilson’s April 5 opinion in Larson v. Commonwealth of Va., VDOT.

The 3rd, 6th and 7th circuit federal appellate courts have all held that such an accommodation is “unreasonable as a matter of law,” Wilson wrote.

It made no difference that Larson alleged his supervisor was the source of his trauma. VDOT did not have a duty to discuss the “clearly unreasonable proposed accommodation,” the court said. Wilson dismissed the suit.
By Deborah Elkins

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