The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Osborne v. Baxter Healthcare Corp. on Monday, August 24, 2015.
Kelly Osborne, who is deaf, applied for a job as a plasma center technician (PCT) at BioLife Plasma Services. After two interviews, she was conditionally offered the job pending final tests and paperwork. BioLife’s human resources division reviewed her paperwork and determined she could not perform essential functions of the PCT job because she was deaf and would not be able to hear the alarm on the plasmaphoresis machine or hear clients calling for help. When Ms. Osborne showed up for work on her first day, Joe Elder, the manager, told her BioLife had rescinded her offer of employment. Ms. Osborne filed suit, arguing that BioLife’s revocation of the job offer violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The district court granted summary judgment to BioLife and ordered each side to pay its own fees and costs. Both parties appealed.
The Tenth Circuit found material disputes of fact as to whether the accommodations Ms. Osborne proposed would be reasonable for BioLife and concluded summary judgment was inappropriate. The Tenth Circuit evaluated the three factors to present a prima facie case of discrimination under the ADA: (1) whether the employee is disabled within the meaning of the ADA, (2) whether the employee is qualified, with or without reasonable accommodation, to perform the essential functions of the job, and (3) whether the employee was discriminated against because of his or her disability. Because there was no dispute that Ms. Osborne met the first and third factors, the Tenth Circuit evaluated only the second—whether she would be able to perform essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. Ms. Osborne proposed adding lights to the plasmaphoresis machine in addition to the alarm sound and giving clients call buttons. Ms. Osborne argued her proposed accommodations were reasonable on their face and the burden should have shifted to BioLife to show that it was unable to provide the accommodations without undue hardship. The Tenth Circuit agreed, finding that summary judgment was precluded because genuine issues of material fact existed regarding whether BioLife could provide the accommodations. Because the Tenth Circuit found that summary judgment was inappropriate, BioLife’s appeal of the cost determination was moot.
The Tenth Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings.