EEOC v. Methodist Hospitals, No. 17-10539 (5th Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued Methodist Hospitals of Dallas (Methodist) for allegedly violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC asserts that Methodist’s categorical policy of hiring the most qualified candidate violates the ADA when a qualified disabled employee requests reassignment to a vacant role, even if he or she is not the most qualified applicant. The EEOC also alleged that Methodist failed to reasonably accommodate a disabled employee, who was not reassigned to a vacant position for which she applied. The district court granted Methodist’s motion for summary judgment on both claims. The EEOC appealed, arguing that the Supreme Court’s ruling in US Airways, Inc. v. Barnett requires Methodist to make exceptions to its most-qualified-applicant policy and that the employee was entitled to a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.
The Fifth Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court as to Methodist’s most-qualified-applicant policy and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. The court affirmed the judgment as to the EEOC’s reasonable accommodations claim involving the employee. The court explained that at summary judgment, an employee’s “unilateral withdrawal from the interactive process is fatal to her claim,” so long as the employer “engaged in a good-faith, interactive process with the employee regarding her request for a reasonable accommodation.” Based on the evidence, no reasonable jury could find that Methodist was unwilling to participate in the interactive process. When the employee did not respond to either the August 7th letter or the follow-up letter after her appeal of her termination, she caused the breakdown of the interactive process. Thus, Methodist did not act unlawfully.