Teacher Who Refused Fitness-For-Duty Exam Has No Disability Accommodation Claim

Clifford Geiger
Clifford Geiger

In a strange case from the district of Oregon, a Catholic preschool teacher with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (“OCD”) claimed that her employer, Sisters of St. Mary Oregon Ministries Corporation, refused to accommodate her disability.  Doby v. Sisters of St. Mary of Or. Ministries Corp., D. Or., No. 13-00977, 8/11/14

According to the court, Doby’s OCD made her believe that Mormon’s are “contaminated.” Apparently, her OCD-induced anxiety and fears about this contamination were triggered when a coworker told her she had just hugged a Mormon student. Doby finished her shift that day, but then she wrote a series of emails to her superiors expressing the extent of her OCD fears. The School placed Doby on paid administrative leave the next day, and about a week later Doby was told that she would have to undergo a fitness-for-duty examination before returning to work. The School selected a psychologist to conduct the evaluation.

When Doby learned that the psychologist’s office was located near a Mormon church, she repeatedly asked that the evaluation be conducted at a different location so as not to trigger her OCD anxiety related to Mormons. She also wanted to pick the doctor. The School insisted on using its doctor, but made offers to (a) schedule the appointment for a different location, (b) allow a support person to accompany Doby during the evaluation; (c) change the timing of the appointment, and (d) pay for a cab to and from the appointment. The School scheduled the evaluation three different times, but Doby refused to appear. After the third missed appointment, Doby was fired for failing to cooperate with the evaluation process.

Doby claimed a couple of things with respect to reasonable accommodation. First, she alleged that the School had a duty to accommodate her OCD by conducting the fitness-for-duty evaluation on her terms. The Court quickly disposed of this claim, noting Doby had not presented any legal authority requiring an employer to accommodate employees required to take a fitness-for-duty examination. And Doby did not have the right to choose the medical provider. Doby also claimed the School did not discuss potential accommodations for her return to school, specifically that she could have been “quarantined” to the wing of the School that was not contaminated. However, the court found that discussion of possible accommodations would have been futile without the results of the fitness-for-duty evaluation indicating whether Doby could perform her job at all.

Curiously, however, the Judge wrote that Doby could proceed to trial on her claim that she was fired in retaliation for asking for accommodations.

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