Scott E. Schraut, Attorney

Scott Schraut is an employment law attorney who advises clients in all matters of employment and labor law from the beginning to the end of employer/employee relationships.  This includes providing guidance about topics such as best hiring practices, drafting personnel policies, analyzing covenants not to compete, addressing employee leave or disability accommodation requests, and appropriate methods of employee terminations.  He also assists clients in avoiding or responding to charges of harassment and discrimination by state or federal agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Minnesota Department of Human Rights, and Minnesota OSHA.  Although he tries to keep his clients out of court as much as possible, our firm is happy to fight for them during all stages of litigation including discovery, motion practice, trials, and appeals where necessary.   

Prior to joining Morrison Sund, Scott was an attorney with Ratwik, Roszak & Maloney advising school districts and other municipal clients in all areas of employment law and litigation.  While at RRM Scott also conducted and coordinated numerous investigations of employee misconduct for allegations such as employee harassment, drug and alcohol use, and improper release or access of confidential medical information.  Before his time at RRM Scott clerked for the Honorable Kerry W. Meyer in Hennepin County District Court for approximately two years gaining extensive insight into the judicial decision-making process. 

Scott earned his undergraduate degree magna cum laude from Valparaiso University and his law degree magna cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School.  While in law school, he was a staff member for the scholarly Journal of Law & Inequality, an assistant with the Silha Center for Media Ethics and Law, and served as a student ambassador for the University.  He is a member of the Hennepin County, Minnesota State, and American Bar Associations, and is licensed to practice in all federal and state courts in Minnesota. 

When not working, Scott loves playing softball and curling with his wife Julie, watching his daughter Stephanie grow up way too fast, and spending time skiing and surfing on the lake.

Notable Cases

-ACCAP-HUD Homes Tax Credit Ltd. Partnership v. Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental, 2012 WL 5834560 (Minn. App. 2012).

-Swan Lake v. State ex rel. Swan Lake Area Wildlife Ass'n v. Nicollet Cnty. Bd. of Cnty. Comm'rs, 684 N.W.2d 291 (Minn. App. 2011).

-In re: Veteran’s Preference Hearing, Patton and State of Minnesota, Department of Military Affairs, 11-VP-0473.  (State Investigator and Testifying Witness).

Employment Law Updates

 Accommodation Need Not Be Linked to Essential Functions of Job

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that a disabled employee’s request for an accommodation does not need to be linked to an essential function of her job.  The court’s decision in Feist v. State of Louisiana, available here, concerned a former assistant attorney general named Pauline Feist who suffers from osteoarthritis of the knee.  Ms. Feist requested that the Louisiana Department of Justice provide a free on-site parking space to accommodate her disability.  The Department denied this request and the district court dismissed the subsequent litigation, holding that Ms. Feist’s failure to explain how the denial limited her ability to perform the essential functions of her job was fatal to her claim.

In its reversal, the appellate court held that the district court applied an incorrect legal standard by requiring Ms. Feist to allege or demonstrate that her parking situation limited her ability to perform the essential functions of her job.  It stated that, “reasonable accommodations are not restricted to modifications that enable performance of essential job functions.”  Rather, a request may be reasonable, and therefore legally required, even without a clear link between the accommodation and duty.

The court declined to address whether the parking spot actually was a reasonable accommodation for Ms. Feist, but it did note that guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission explicitly states that providing a reserved parking space may be a reasonable accommodation for a disabled employee under some circumstances.

The implications of this case are significant.  First, it clarifies the legal standard and lowers the initial burden for plaintiffs in denial of accommodation cases.  It also means that employers may no longer defend themselves against ADA claims by simply producing the job duties and showing that the accommodation does not relate to one of these duties.  Rather, courts will look to accommodation requests with a broader eye toward how they may assist the employee to perform his or her job.  Although it is limited to the Fifth Circuit, which includes Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, a decision like this from a traditionally conservative appellate court should give warning to all employers.

Quick Summary:  An accommodation for a disabled employee may be reasonable, and therefore legally required, even if it does not enable performance of a specific job function.  Therefore, employers should look beyond job duties before denying such requests.

 

The purpose of this article is to inform you of interesting and important legal developments and not as legal advice. While current as of the date of publication, the information provided may be superseded by court decisions and legislative amendments.  We cannot render legal advice without an awareness and analysis of the facts of a particular situation.  If you have questions about the application of concepts discussed in this article, you should consult legal counsel.

 

Email: sschraut@morrisonsund.com

Phone: (952) 277-0146

Fax: (952) 975-0058

Assistant: Sarah Stoeger

Assistant Phone: (952) 277-0111

Assistant Email: sstoeger@morrisonsund.com