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Garland's Digest on Employment Discrimination Law
online since 1997



Disclaimer: The case on which this summary is based may no longer be current law. Also, if the case was decided on summary judgment, the court recited the "facts" in the light most favorable to the non-movant, which may not be the true facts.


Ward v. Massachusetts Health Research Institute, Inc., 209 F.3d 29 (1st Cir. April 12, 2000)

Keywords: ADA (essential function; reasonable accommodation; because of disability)

Introduction: Michael Ward sued the Massachusetts Health Research Institute (MHRI) under the ADA and Massachusetts state law for disability discrimination. The district court granted summary judgment on behalf of MHRI. The First Circuit reverses and remands.

Facts: MHRI allows all employees to work a flex-time schedule -- meaning that they can start work any time between 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. and then leave for the day after they have worked seven and a half hours. Ward, a data entry clerk, suffers from arthritis. The arthritis makes it difficult for him to move after periods of inactivity (like sleep). As a result, he had a difficult time arriving at work by 9:00 a.m. although he would work seven and one half hours regardless of when he arrived at work. MHRI eventually terminated him for excessive tardiness even though it was aware of the arthritis problem.


  1. Qualified individual

    1. Essential function: The Court holds that MHRI failed to show that a set schedule was an essential function for Ward's job as a data entry clerk. MHRI argued that Ward requires constant supervision -- but even under its flex-time approach, there was no assurance that Ward's supervisor would be working the same hours as Ward. Also, MHRI failed to show that Ward otherwise needed to be at work during specific hours of the day. The only time-sensitive aspect of his job was that his data entry work had to be completed before the laboratory opened the next day.

    2. Reasonable accommodation: The accommodation sought was an open schedule. The Court declines to find that this proposed accommodation is per se unreasonable. Therefore, MHRI must submit evidence that the proposed accommodation would impose an undue hardship. MHRI failed to present this type of evidence.

    3. Therefore, the district court should not have granted summary judgment on the basis that Ward was not a qualified individual.

  2. Because of disability

    1. The Court also finds that the district court erred in finding that as a matter of law Ward was not terminated because of his disability.

    2. Ward was terminated for excessive tardiness which flows directly from his arthritis.

  3. Therefore, the Court reverses and remands.

  4. Click here to see actual case.





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