Corporate Services Inc.

06/26/2020 | News release | Archived content

Reassigned Worker Says Disability Was Not Accommodated; Court, Employer Disagree

But what happens when an employee is not satisfied, even after the employer has fulfilled its responsibilities?

Returned to work with restrictions

Johnny Mack Mitchell, a worker at chicken producer Pilgrim's Pride Corporation, injured his rotator cuff while hanging chickens.

Mitchell underwent surgery and eventually was cleared to return to work with minor lifting restrictions. However, Mitchell's occupational nurse suggested he not return to his old position. Pilgrim's Pride reassigned him to a position where he would no longer be hanging chickens.

But Mitchell was not satisfied with his reassignment and he sued his employer for failure to accommodate (Mitchell v. Pilgrim's Pride Corporation).

The 11th Circuit disagreed with Mitchell.

The record indisputably established that Mitchell was fired for insubordination. Mitchell conceded that he returned to the live shed dressed as a live hanger despite being assigned to the picking room. Moreover, [the nurse recommended] that Mitchell not return to the live shed because of his shoulder. While Mitchell was suspended, human resources confirmed with nursing staff that Mitchell 'had not followed medical protocol.'

Mitchell also never could explain how the reassignment was not a reasonable accommodation for him. The company did not violate the ADA, the court concluded.