Yasas Rodrigo was a resident in Carle’s Family Medicine Residency Program. Rodrigo was unable to pass the Step 3 testing required to continue in the Residency program. Rodrigo initially withdrew from the program when he was unable to pass Step 3 rather than being terminated from the program. However, he subsequently requested an accommodation to allow him to take the Step 3 test a third time. Carle rejected the request and refused to allow Rodrigo back into the Residency program. Rodrigo filed this suit under the ADA alleging disability discrimination, failure to accommodate and retaliation.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the grant of summary judgment in Carle’s favor. The court recognized that passing an exam for licensing is a prerequisite that must be accomplished for someone to be a “qualified individual with a disability” under the ADA. Rodrigo was not a qualified individual with a disability since he didn’t pass Step 3, a prerequisite for moving forward in the program. The court also found that passing Step 3 was an essential function of the job under the ADA. Thus, Rodrigo was not able to perform the essential functions of the job. He was unable to pass Step 3.
With respect to the retaliation claim, the court noted that a retaliation plaintiff need not be a qualified individual with a disability to succeed on a retaliation claim. However, here, the court found that Rodrigo was merely attempting to restate his disability discrimination and failure to accommodate claims as retaliation claims. There was no valid retaliation claim.
This opinion is instructive to employers who utilize testing or exams during the employment process. It makes clear that passing such testing or exams can be an essential function of the job and that failure to pass will prevent an employee from being a qualified individual with a disability under the ADA.
Read the Ruling.