Hirlston v. Costco Wholesale Corp., No. 22-2067 (7th Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
Hirlston worked for several years as a Costco store's Optical Manager. Hirlston has life-long disabilities that make it hard for her to bend, walk, and stand. In 2015, Costco planned to remodel the optical department in a way that would make it more difficult for Hirlston to continue working in that job. The parties discussed accommodations, including work restrictions designated by Hirlston’s doctor. Costco determined that no accommodations would allow Hirlston to continue as Optical Manager and that she had not been carrying out the essential functions of her job before the remodeling. She had been acting contrary to her doctor’s restrictions and delegating tasks that Costco believed were essential for her to carry out. Costco placed Hirlston on involuntary leave and later assigned her to a different job paying less money.
Hirlston sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), alleging disability discrimination and retaliation, 42 U.S.C. 12111(8), 12112, 12203(a). A jury concluded that she was not qualified to do the Optical Manager job. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The use of a special verdict form was not erroneous. Hirlston forfeited her challenge to jury instructions by failing to make a timely objection. The key instruction included an error but the error did not harm Hirlston’s case so as to require a new trial. The judge did not abuse her discretion by allowing the parties to introduce photographs of the workplace that had not been disclosed in discovery.