“Regular, in-person attendance constitutes an essential function of most jobs.”
So says the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in ruling that an auditor who was unable to perform that essential function was not qualified for her job under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In Popeck v. Rawlings, Co., LLC, an employee with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) missed approximately 60% of her work time – being tardy, leaving early, taking excessive breaks, and taking full day absences. She was eventually fired for her attendance, purportedly unrelated to her medical condition. But even if all of her missed time was related to her IBS, the Sixth Circuit found no violation of the ADA.
Noting that regular, in-person attendance is an essential function of most jobs, the Sixth Circuit first examined whether it was an essential function of her job as an auditor. The auditor position required the employee to access information from secure on-site computers. Telework was prohibited because of the large volume of confidential and HIPAA-protected information. Therefore, regular in-person attendance was, in fact, an essential function of the job, and there was no reasonable accommodation that would have enabled the employee to perform it. Although the employee had requested the ability to come in late and leave early when her symptoms flared up, this would not have “come close to solving her attendance problem.” Accordingly, she was not qualified for the job.