Medical Residency Program Demonstrates Importance of Documenting and Consistently Applying Job Requirements
In Rodrigo v. Carle Foundation Hospital, No.16-1403 (7th Cir.), plaintiff was a medical resident in a three-year residency program (the “Program”). In addition to completing certain rotations and passing parts one and two of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (“USMLE”) or (“Step 1” and “Step 2,” respectively), residents were required to pass Step 3 before advancing to the third year of the Program. Residents who failed Step 3 more than two times would be terminated from the Program. In light of performance issues, despite a number of accommodations, the resident failed Step 3 three times and was informed that he was not eligible to continue in the Program. Upon request, he was permitted to resign in lieu of termination. Two days later, he requested reinstatement and asserted that he had been under tremendous pressure and that “severe insomnia,” among other things, caused him to fail Step 3. Carle declined to reinstate him and Rodrigo filed suit, asserting claims under the Americans With Disabilities Act. The Seventh Circuit held that Rodrigo’s discrimination and failure-to-accommodate claims failed because Rodrigo could not show that he was a “qualified individual.” The Court determined that Rodrigo could not satisfy the perquisites of the position or perform the essential functions of the job because he could not pass Step 3 in the Program’s required time frame.
This decision demonstrates the importance of well-defined job (program, in this case) requirements and clear and timely counseling of deficiencies and efforts to assist the failing individual.