Meucci v. City of Hartford
An employer's refusal to build a wheelchair ramp to permit a worker to access her work area, in the event that an elevator does not work, may constitute a failure to accommodate, even if the employer permits the worker to telecommute. In 2004, the City of Hartford promoted Dawn Meucci to the position of principal administrative analyst. Allegedly, department head Eric Jackson promised to and did not promote Meucci to the position of operations manager. When the department receptionist was fired, Meucci assumed the receptionist's job responsibilities. In 1989, Meucci was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Her work area was made large enough for Meucci to use her wheelchair. Meucci requested a wheelchair ramp, to permit her to gain access to her work area when the elevator was not working. Meucci sued, alleging failure to promote and disability discrimination, because the city did not provide the wheelchair ramp. The city moved for summary judgment and argued there was no opening available for an operations manager, and it permitted Meucci to telecommute when the elevator was not working. Meucci kept the same salary, title and job responsibilities and failed to prove that her transfer to the receptionist area constituted an adverse employment action. Even assuming that Meucci established a prima facie case of disability discrimination on the failure-to-promote claim, the city articulated a legitimate, nondiscriminatory rationale, because there was no operations manager job available, and it would have been unduly burdensome to create a position in the midst of a budget crisis. The court granted the city's motion for summary judgment on failure to promote. To prove a prima facie case of disability discrimination, as a result of failure to accommodate, a plaintiff must prove: 1.) the employer knew she was disabled; 2.) she could perform essential job functions with reasonable accommodations; and 3.) the employer refused to make reasonable accommodations. There was a genuine issue of material fact with respect to whether the city's refusal to build a wheelchair ramp constituted a failure to provide a reasonable accommodation. The court denied the city's motion for summary judgment on Meucci's failure-to-accommodate claim.