Interactive Process in Action

If you’re not sure what the interactive process is supposed to look like under the ADA, peruse the facts of the 8th Circuit’s decision in Minnihan v. Mediacom.  I’m also going to summarize the facts below, but if you want to read the legal analysis too go ahead and read the full decision.

Minnihan worked at Mediacom for a lengthy period of time before experiencing a seizure in December 2009.  Under Iowa law, an individual who experiences a seizure loses his or her driving privileges for at least a 6-month period.  Unfortunately, an essential duty of Minnihan’s job was driving.  He worked about 50% of the time in the office and the other 50% of the time in the field.  Working in the field required him to drive from the office to a customer’s location.

Initially, Mediacom decided to accommodate him by reallocation his driving responsibilities to other employees.  When Minnihan experienced another seizure in March 2010, it informed him that it could no longer accommodate him and he would need to apply for a vacant position.  Minnihan did not want a new position so he hired an attorney.  Correspondence between Mediacom and the attorney took place over the next few months; however, during that time Mediacom met with Minnihan to discuss comparable positions that did not require driving.  Ultimately, the company decided to accommodate him until the 6 month period triggered by the March seizure expired.  Minnihan was able to return to full duties in October 2010. 

Minnihan experienced a third seizure in April 2011.  After this seizure Mediacom informed Minnihan that he would be transferred to a non-driving comparable position in Des Moines (about 25 miles from where he had been working in Ames).  Mediacom gave Minnihan 30 days to decide if he would accept the transfer or take FMLA leave.  Mediacom provided Minnihan with information on transportation options from Ames to Des Moines.  Rather than accept the position, Minnihan asked that Mediacom restructure his job or hire a second person to complete his driving duties.  Minnihan eventually failed to come to work and failed to complete FMLA paperwork.  He was fired the day after the 30-day period expired.

This lawsuit followed.  The 8th circuit analyzed a number of legal issues and ultimately found in favor of Mediacom on all of them.  Important to note from my standpoint is the slow and steady manner in which Mediacom handled the situation.  It appears Mediacom took steps to gather information, communicate with Minnihan, and follow-through with their plan despite the threat of a lawsuit.