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Sixth Circuit evaluates disability and retaliation claim against Ford Motor

On behalf of Jane Harris, the EEOC sued Ford Motor Company, alleging that it discriminated against Harris because of a disability that it could have accommodated.  Harris worked for Ford as a resale steel buyer for almost a decade, but experienced progressive difficulty with irritable bowel syndrome.  She  required several FMLA leaves and sought a work-at-home accommodation.  Ford made the determination that Harris could not work at home the requested four days per week and denied her request.  Ford's HR Department suggested alternative accommodations that still required Harris to report to a Ford facility; instead she filed a complaint with the EEOC.

The parties relationship deteriorated, Harris stopped going to work, and the EEOC filed this lawsuit alleging violations of the ADA and retaliation.  The trial judge concluded that Ford had satisfied its duty to prove that the work-from-home request was unreasonable and granted summary disposition of the claim.  The EEOC appealed and the higher court reversed.  The panel majority concluded that a reasonable jury could examine the facts and conclude that Ford had not reasonably  accommodated Harris or that it had retaliated against her for involving the EEOC.  

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