Can a small retailer be required to let an employee turn away
customers she cannot serve due to a disability as part of
Store Manager Robabeh Poursadi developed a work-related wrist
injury that precluded her from performing some of the customer
service aspects of her position. The case did not make it clear
what tasks she was unable to perform, but a reasonable inference
can be made that the wrist injury would have precluded Ms. Poursadi
from lifting, carrying, handling or demonstrating certain types of
While this would not be an issue if there was another employee
in the store, it became an issue as the store only merited one
employee during less busy times throughout the week. The store only
required one employee approximately 20 hours a week. The parties
accepted that Bentley Leathers was not required to schedule a
second employee simply to backup Ms. Poursadi.
In any event, Ms. Poursadi argued that she could be accommodated
by simply being permitted to ask customers to return when another
employee was present in the store. She further argued that it would
only be in exceptional or rare occasions that she would not be able
to service a customer and the potential loss of revenue would not
constitute undue hardship.
Bentley Leathers argued that servicing all customers at all
times was an essential duty of the position. Ms. Poursadi, however,
argued that while this was a business requirement, it was not an
essential duty. The Tribunal accepted that an essential duty of the
position was that the employee be able to assist customers
"all the time," not just "most of the
The case illustrates the importance of having complete and
detailed job descriptions. Bentley Leathers was not required to
prove the potential loss of revenue or the type of hardship it
would suffer if Ms. Poursadi was allowed to turn away some
Instead, Bentley Leathers established its case based on the
legal principle that once accommodation is implemented, the
employee must be able to perform the "essential duties"
of her position. As eloquently argued by Bentley Leathers:
"it is irrelevant whether the
applicant (Ms. Poursadi) would be turning away customers rarely or
frequently. ...[I]t is antithetical to the raison
d'etre of a retailer to require them to allow
employees to turn away customers or sales. ...[E]mployers are not
obligated to allow an employee to defer tasks that exceed her
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