In Credeur v. State of Louisiana, an attorney working as a litigator with the attorney general’s office experienced health issues related to a kidney transplant. The Office of the Attorney General allowed Credeur to work from home temporarily while she was recovering from her transplant surgery. After several months of telecommuting, the Office of the Attorney General denied Credeur’s continued request to work from home and required Credeur to begin spending at least 3-4 hours per day working in the office, as tolerated.
Credeur filed a lawsuit against the State of Louisiana claiming failure to accommodate, harassment and retaliation under the ADA based on the situation regarding her request to continue working from home. The Fifth Circuit upheld the district court’s grant of summary judgment because the record showed that regular in-office attendance was an essential function of Credeur’s job as a litigator, thus working from home long-term was not a reasonable accommodation. In making this determination, the Court noted that an employee’s opinions alone about what are and are not essential function of their job are not enough to create a fact issue to defeat summary judgment.
The Court also found that Credeur’s failed to present sufficient evidence of an ADA harassment or retaliation claim. Credeur’s issues all stemmed from the Office of the Attorney General’s denial of her request to continue working from home and its attempts to come up with a reasonable accommodation for her disability.
Important takeaways from Credeur for management-side employment lawyers include:
- Providing an accommodation that is not reasonable or not legally required (e.g., work from home) does not obligate the employer to continue that accommodation forever;
- Regular work-site attendance is an essential function of most jobs;
- Jobs requiring day-to-day coordination with supervisors and staff; adequate supervision from supervisors
- Employee’s unsupported testimony that she can perform her job functions from home does not create a genuine issue of material fact to preclude summary judgment;
- Employee’s opinion about what functions are essential is entitled to little credit from court;
- Chastisement by superiors does not rise to the level of material adversity that distinguishes an adverse employment action from petty slights, minor annoyances and simple lack of good manners that are not actionably retaliatory conduct;
- Performance improvement device such as a Last Chance Agreement that do not result in disciplinary action are not materially adverse actions to support a retaliation claim.
You can download the full opinion here.