In a 2-1 decision, the First Circuit Court of Appeals held that an employee who prematurely ended the interactive process when she quit could not maintain her ADA failure to accommodate claim against her former employer. In EEOC v. Kohl’s Dep’t Stores, Inc., No. 14-1268 (1st Cir. Dec. 19, 2014), Pamela Manning, a sales employee with diabetes, had requested a steady and predictable work schedule from the department store, where she worked from 2006 until 2010. Ms. Manning’s doctor had written a note indicating that her diabetes was being exacerbated by an erratic schedule that included working late nights, followed by day shifts. Ms. Manning’s doctor recommended a predictable day shift schedule.
Ms. Manning, when speaking with her managers, said she would be fine with a steady schedule, not necessarily 9am to 5pm, and was willing to work weekends. The meeting went sour quickly when a manager advised Ms. Manning she could not give her a steady 9 to 5 schedule. Ms. Manning left the meeting very upset and resigned. The manager followed Ms. Manning to try and calm her down, encouraged her to rescind her resignation, and offered to discuss other accommodations. The manager followed up with a phone call ten days later, reiterating the same points. Ms. Manning asked about her schedule and the manager advised she would need to consult with corporate about any accommodation. Ms. Manning never called back and Kohl’s terminated her a week later.
Unbeknownst to Ms. Manning, Kohl’s Human Resources Department had confirmed that she would need to work nights and weekends as a full-time employee, but would not need to work swing shifts, and would be monitored to make sure she took her breaks. Kohl’s never told Ms. Manning about the no swing shift option.
The Kohl’s majority concluded that Kohl’s met its ADA obligation to engage in a “good faith” interactive process after Ms. Manning had requested accommodation, even though Kohl’s did not communicate the “no swing shift” option. Because Ms. Manning had prematurely ended the interactive process by quitting, the court concluded the EEOC could not pursue either a discrimination or a constructive discharge claim. Even though Kohl’s was not willing to provide Ms. Manning with her preferred schedule (the day shift only), it was willing to discuss other schedules that would balance Ms. Manning’s needs with those of the department store and by quitting, Ms. “Manning refused to hear what Kohl’s had to offer.” Her refusal to participate in further discussions was not a good faith effort to participate in the interactive process, concluded the court, and because Ms. Manning chose not to follow up with Kohl’s offer to discuss alternative accommodations, she was primarily responsible for the breakdown in the interactive process.