A disabled employee failed a safety test and was fired, but now the company’s in hot water for not trying hard enough to find an ADA accommodation for the worker.

Here’s a breakdown of the case.

Suggested alternatives

Mark Mlsna was a train conductor with Union Pacific who had
a hearing disability. Employees were required to wear ear protection, but when
Mlsna wore it, his hearing was impaired even more and he wasn’t able to pass a
hearing safety test.

Mlsna suggested alternative options, but the company claimed it looked into them and found no solution that would work. Mlsna was later fired, and he sued for an ADA violation, claiming Union Pacific failed to accommodate his disability.

A district court initially sided with the company, claiming
Mlsna wasn’t qualified for the job because of his hearing impairment.

But the 7th Circuit reversed that decision. First, it
questioned whether passing the hearing safety test was an essential function of
Mlsna’s job. The 7th Circuit also pointed out that Mlsna suggested reasonable
accommodations that the company flat-out refused to consider.

Union Pacific didn’t carry out its duties under the ADA.

Cite: Mlsna v. Union Pacific Railroad Co., 9/14/20.

Rachel Mucha

Rachel writes about Human Resource management and has been a member of the HRMorning staff since 2017. She is a graduate of Ithaca College.