Samper v. Providence St. Vincent Med. Ctr., 675 F.3d 1233 (9th Cir. 2012)

Monika Samper, a neo-natal intensive care unit nurse, sought an accommodation from the hospital where she was employed that would have allowed her an unspecified number of unplanned absences from work. She wanted to opt out of Providence’s attendance policy, which permitted five unplanned absences of unlimited duration and other absences during a rolling 12-month period. Samper, who alleged she suffered from fibromyalgia, regularly exceeded the number of unplanned absences permitted by the hospital’s policy. In an effort to accommodate Samper, Providence permitted her to call in when she was having a “bad day” and move her shift to another day in the week. Samper was given another accommodation in which her two shifts per week would not be scheduled on consecutive days. Despite these and other accommodations, Samper’s attendance problems persisted. After further accommodations, Samper was finally discharged for, among other reasons, seven absences in a 12-month period and “general problems with absences.” In response, Samper filed a lawsuit, alleging violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act due to the hospital’s alleged failure to accommodate her disability. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the hospital, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed based on the “common-sense notion that on-site regular attendance is an essential job function…of a neo-natal nurse.” The Court further held that Samper’s requested accommodation (a waiver from the hospital’s five-absence limit) was unreasonable, noting that “an employer need not provide accommodations that compromise performance quality.”