Sinclair v. Domb Lighting & Elec. Supply Co., 2009 WL 1118813 (App. Div., April 28, 2009) – In this NJLAD case, the plaintiff challenged the trial court’s conclusion that he was required to prove the existence of a reasonable accommodation for his disability, arguing that the employer’s failure to engage in the interactive process to find an accommodation was sufficient to establish his prima facie case.
The Appellate Division rejected the plaintiff’s contention, ruling that without evidence that his disability could be reasonably accommodated, the plaintiff failed to establish that he was a “qualified individual” for the job. There is a distinction, the court said, between the employer’s legal duty to find a reasonable accommodation at the time a plaintiff requests one, and the burdens of proof at trial. When a plaintiff initially requests an accommodation, he need not state what specific accommodation he is seeking, as the employer is in a better position to know what accommodations can reasonably be made. In litigation, however, the employee can and must establish what the employer could have done to accommodate his specific needs. This requirement is “equivalent to placing the burden on any plaintiff in a lawsuit to prove that he actually was damaged by the defendant’s unlawful conduct.”
Note: This article was published in the May 2009 issue of the New Jersey eAuthority.