Despite Failed Medical Exam, Employee’s Actual Performance Supported ADA Claim


In a cautionary tale for employers, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit emphasized the significance of an employee’s actual performance of job duties, despite the fact that he failed a required medical exam.

In Iselin v. The Bama Companies, Inc., a temporary employee performed the duties of a general production worker for five months, despite having rotator cuff and back injuries. He was offered a regular position with the company, contingent on passing the company’s standard “physical demand assessment.” He was terminated after failing the exam, and sued for violation of the ADA. The trial court found that, because the employee had failed the exam, he could not show that he was able to perform the essential functions of the job.

The 10th Circuit, however, reversed the trial court’s ruling and found that the employee plausibly established that he could perform the essential functions of the job, since he had performed them successfully for the five months prior to the exam. The 10th Circuit stated that the trial court had improperly ignored the employee’s work history. Employers should keep in mind that the most relevant evidence as to an employee’s ability to perform the essential job functions of a position is the actual history of performance.