Reasonable Accommodations – They’re Not Just for Job Functions

Most employers are familiar with their obligation under the Americans with Disabilities Act  (ADA) to engage in an interactive process with employees to determinate accommodations for a qualifying employee’s disability.  However, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has recently that an employer’s obligation extends beyond providing reasonable accommodations that enable an employee to perform the essential functions of his or her job.

In Feist v. Louisiana Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General, a former assistant attorney general of the Louisiana Department of Justice Pauline Feist filed a lawsuit against the department claiming that it violated the ADA by refusing to grant her request for a free onsite parking space to accommodate her disability: osteoarthritis of the knee.  The district court found that, because the parking spot was not needed to perform an essential function of her job, the department had no obligation to provide the accommodation requested.  On appeal, the Fifth Circuit held that an employer’s obligation to provide reasonable accommodations is not limited to accommodations that enable an employee to perform the essential functions of his or her job.  Instead, it found that Feist’s requested parking spot could have made her workplace “readily accessible and usable” by her; thus, the employer was required to consider whether to provide such an accommodation.  The Fifth Circuit remanded the case to the district court to determine whether the Feist’s free parking-spot request was a “reasonable” accommodation under the ADA.

The Feist decision serves as a reminder to employers of the broad scope of the ADA.  Determining whether an employee is entitled to a particular accommodation can be a difficult and fact-intensive inquiry for employers.  The employment law attorneys at McMahon Berger have extensive experience assisting employers on questions relating to the ADA and state disability law requirements, and are available for consultation and representation to employers of all sizes.

Missouri Sales Commission Statutes Allow Sales Representatives to Recover Statutory Damages and Attorneys Fees for Unpaid Commissions Even if the Sales Representative Voluntarily Resign

 

The Missouri Sales Commission statutes require employers to pay terminated contract sales representatives their commission in a timely manner, or be subject to statutory damages and potential attorneys fees.  The Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District recently found that these remedies are also available to sales representatives who voluntarily resign; not just those representatives who are terminated by the employer.

In Lapponese v. Carts of Colorado, Inc., a sales representative of Carts Colorado, Inc., Ken Lapponese, became involved in a dispute with his employer about the amount of commissions he was owed.  In short, Carts of Colorado claimed that Lapponese was only entitled to commissions calculated by a formula based on the gross margin of his sales, not on the gross sales themselves.  Lapponese disagreed, and voluntarily resigned because of the dispute.  Lapponese then brought suit against Carts of Colorado under the Missouri Sales Commission statutes (§ 407.911, et seq., RSMo).  At trial Lapponese argued that he was entitled to statutory damages under the Missouri Sales Commission statutes, which would entitle him to not only the amount of commissions due him, but also an additional award of an amount he would have earned in commissions from the date of his termination to the date of payment; as well as his attorneys’ fees.  Carts of Colorado argued that Lapponese was not entitled to statutory damages and attorneys’ fees under the statute because the statute only applies to those sales representatives who were involuntarily terminated by the employer.  The trial court ruled that Lapponese was entitled to statutory damages and attorneys’ fees.  Addressing this question for the first time, the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District agreed with Lapponese and affirmed the award of statutory damages and attorney’s fees.

Employers involved with commission disputes with sales representatives should be aware of this new interpretation of the Missouri Sales Commission statutes.  Long-running disputes regarding commissions can greatly enhance the amount of such statutory awards, and attorneys’ fees can be substantial.  A careful analysis of the employer’s potential liability for unpaid commissions is essential to determining the best method for resolving disputes with commissioned sales employees.  McMahon Berger’s attorneys routinely counsel and represent employers on matters relating to sales representative commissions.

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