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Norwood v. United Parcel Service, Inc.

No. 21-3145. 1/17/2023. D.Kan. Judge Carson. Americans with Disabilities Act—Reasonable Accommodations—Interactive Process.

January 17, 2023

Norwood was employed by United Parcel Service, Inc. (UPS) as a manager to oversee her division’s operational safety, service, and performance. Her position required her to remember and then record daily conversations. Norwood’s mental health declined, and she struggled to recall the conversations that UPS expected her to memorize. Norwood met with her supervisor and a human resources manager to discuss her performance issues and UPS’s intention to place her on a manager performance improvement plan. Norwood suffered an anxiety attack after the meeting, so she requested medical leave and an accommodation. UPS advised her on how to seek an accommodation. A few days later, Norwood went on leave and did not return to work. Norwood ultimately returned her completed accommodation paperwork. UPS then engaged in an extensive back-and-forth with Norwood in attempt to accommodate her. Ultimately, Norwood decided to retire. She then sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Kansas Act Against Discrimination. Both parties moved for summary judgment, and the district court granted UPS’s motion.

On appeal, Norwood argued that UPS failed to engage in the interactive process in good faith because it did not formally offer her a notetaker to assist with her duties as a reasonable accommodation but instead only asked her whether this would be acceptable. The interactive process requires employers to undertake a good faith back-and-forth process with employees in an attempt to identify an employee’s precise limitations and to find a reasonable accommodation for those limitations. Employers are not required to frame possible reasonable accommodations during the interactive process in declarative sentences rather than questions. Here, UPS engaged in regular communication with Norwood to find a reasonable accommodation until Norwood expressed her intent to retire. Accordingly, no reasonable jury could find that UPS engaged in the interactive process in bad faith.

Norwood also argued that the district court erred by excluding a doctor’s expert testimony. However, although Norwood attached the doctor’s deposition to her response to UPS’s summary judgment motion, she failed to cite the doctor’s testimony with particularity in accordance with the district’s local rules, and she mislabeled an exhibit as “Exhibit H,” which was not attached to the record. Therefore, the district court did not err.

Lastly, Norwood contended that the district court repeatedly granted unreasonable inferences in UPS’s favor and refused to grant her reasonable inferences. However, the record shows that the district court granted Norwood concessions where it could, but the undisputed facts clearly contradict Norwood’s version of the interactive process. Therefore, the district court properly granted summary judgment for UPS.

The order was affirmed.

Official US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit proceedings can be found at the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit website.

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