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Burden of Proving the Availability of a Reasonable Accommodation is on Plaintiff

On May 11, 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that it is an employee’s burden to prove that an ADA accommodation was available.

In Snapp v. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co., an employee who suffered from sleep apnea took a long-term disability leave. Snapp v. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co., 10-cv-05577, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12336 (9th Cir. Or., May 11, 2018). The employee’s long-term disability benefits were terminated after he refused to complete a sleep study. At that time, the employee did not request an accommodation or apply to return to work. Subsequently, his employment was terminated, and the employee sued alleging a failure to provide a reasonable accommodation.

At trial, the employee unsuccessfully sought a jury instruction that would put the burden of proof on the employer to show that the employer could have accommodated the disability. The employee then appealed to the Ninth Circuit.

On appeal, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the jury verdict and held that, at trial, the burden was on the employee to proving the availability of a reasonable accommodation, even if the employer did not take advantage of the interactive process under the ADA.

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