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Friday, February 2, 2018

Vertigo Disability – How to Win a Difficult Case


Susan Morris-Huse worked at Geico as a TCR I Supervisor, an individual who supervises the processing and settling of claims in a telephone claims unit. She was diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease, a disease of the inner ear, in the mid 2000s and for about a decade took intermittent disability leave when the disease. It would flare up causing her “random attacks of vertigo, and nearly chronic bouts of dizziness and imbalance,” according to her lawsuit filed in Federal Court in Tampa.

After undergoing a procedure in 2013, her doctor wrote to Geico recommending that Huse be allowed to work from home because she could not “reliably drive long distances and do things that required walking up and down stairs.” Geico, in response, arranged for her to carpool with co-workers, allowing her to avoid climbing stairs and providing her a few offices spaces for her to rest should her symptoms act up, but did not let her work remotely.

Huse returned to work using the ride-share system and was able to make her shifts for several months until she transferred to a different office where she did not have to drive as far to work. But she could not work after June 2015 and went on long term disability. In 2016 Huse filed suit alleging that Geico did not accommodate her disability under the ADA. The Federal Judge ruled on Tuesday that the accommodations Geico provided Huse were reasonable, even if they weren’t the accommodations she preferred, and dismissed her lawsuit.

Common Sense Counsel: The ADA requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” that allow workers to overcome disabilities and perform their jobs so long as these accommodations do not impose an “undue hardship” on the business. The Judge held in this case it was enough that Geico arranged for her to get rides with co-workers and did not require that she climb stairs. The Judge added that telework was not a reasonable accommodation in this case because Huse’s job required that she provide in-person guidance to the workers she supervised and monitor their calls using software available only at Geico’s offices; ruling that “The undisputed evidence demonstrates that Huse held an interactive job, that used technology available only at the office locations, and which required her to have a regular, physical presence.” The federal judge’s analysis of Huse’s written Geico job description as a TCR I Supervisor was critical to the favorable outcome for Geico in this case. Never underestimate the value of a well drafted, legally compliant job description, and wise legal counsel on patiently handling disabled workers. Preventive preparation and patience can keep you from getting dizzy when the lawsuit arrives.


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Tommy Eden is a partner working out of the Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP offices in Opelika, AL and can be contacted at teden@constangy.com or 334-246-2901. Blog at www.alabamaatwork Geico was represented by Tommy’s Partner’s Angelique Groza Lyons and Sean Douthard.