The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld dismissal of failure to accommodate and disability discrimination claims where, for several years, the employer provided accommodations relating to plaintiff’s mental health (including directing co-workers not to startle plaintiff). Scheidler v. State of Indiana et al. Despite that admonition, a supervisor reached toward her with a choking motion and said, “I could just strangle you” resulting in a heated argument. When investigating the incident, the employer learned that months earlier, the plaintiff stated “It’s who you know and who you blow,” demeaning a colleague’s promotion prospects. After the investigation, the employer issued a written disciplinary notice to the supervisor and terminated the plaintiff for her role in the argument and her lewd comment.
The Seventh Circuit found, in that while the argument between the supervisor and the plaintiff could be a failure to accommodate, it was an “isolated, one-off event.” The plaintiff did not raise any other failure to accommodate issues and could not show that the overall interactive process had broken down or that other accommodations, such as time off, were not provided. In contrast, plaintiff’s involvement in the argument, coupled with her crude comment, gave the employer a basis for termination. Perhaps most significantly, the Seventh Circuit emphasized it was not holding that a single event could never support a claim for failure to accommodate.