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DAVIS, Circuit Judge. We took this case en banc primarily to determine whether, in this fully-tried case, the district court erred in the instructions it gave to the jury in Ms. Rizzo’saction under the Americans for Disabilities Act and, secondarily, whether the record supports the verdict. The jury, in response to special interrogatories,rendered a verdict in favor of Ms. Rizzo. After carefully reviewing the record, we conclude that the district court committed no plain error in submitting thiscase to the jury and that the evidence amply supports the verdict. We therefore affirm the judgment of the district court. I. Appellee, Ms. Victoria Rizzo, was employed by appellant, Children’s World Learning Centers, Inc. (CWLC), as a teacher’s aid. One of her duties was drivinga van transporting children to and from school. Ms. Rizzo had a hearing impairment which she disclosed to CWLC before she was hired. After observing Ms.Rizzo in the classroom, a parent expressed concern about whether Ms. Rizzo’s hearing impairment placed the children at risk while they were riding aspassengers in Ms. Rizzo’s van. Shortly thereafter, CWLC relieved Ms. Rizzo of her driving duties because of their concern that her hearing impairmentprevented her from safely driving the van and supervising the children in the van. The district court initially granted summary judgment in favor of CWLC on grounds that the employer took the personnel action for a legitimatenon-discriminatory reason and Rizzo failed to show that this reason was pretextual. Ms. Rizzo appealed to this court and we concluded that issues of fact werepresented which required resolution at trial. Rizzo v. Children’s World Learning Centers, Inc., 84 F.3d 758 (5th Cir. 1996)(Rizzo I). We stated that”[w]hether one is a direct threat [to the safety of herself or others] is a complicated, fact intensive determination, not a question of law. To determine whether aparticular individual performing a particular act poses a direct risk to others is a matter for the trier of fact to determine after weighing all of the evidence aboutthe nature of the risk and the potential harm.” Id. at 764. On the burden of proof, we stated that “[a]n employee who is a direct threat is not a qualifiedindividual with a disability. As with all affirmative defenses, the employer bears the burden of proving that the employee is a direct threat.” Id. On remand, the case was tried to a jury which rendered a verdict in favor of Ms. Rizzo. The district court entered a judgment on the verdict and a dividedpanel affirmed. Rizzo v. Children’s World Learning Centers, Inc., 173 F.3d 254 (5th Cir. 1999)(Rizzo II). The dissent took the position that the districtcourt erred in two respects: first, in placing the burden of proof on the defendant to establish that Ms. Rizzo was a direct threat to the children she wastransporting in the van, and; second, in failing to grant defendant’s motion for judgment as a matter of law on grounds that the plaintiff failed to producesufficient evidence to support the implicit jury finding that she engaged in the interactive process to provide information to the employer about the extent of herdisability. We took this case en banc to consider these two issues. II. A. CWLC first challenges the district court’s charge to the jury, explaining which party had the burden of establishing that Ms. Rizzo was a direct threat to herstudent passengers. In charging the jury, the district court first instructed the jury that the plaintiff, Rizzo, had the burden of proving the essential elements of her claim. The courtexplained that this required the plaintiff to prove that she was a qualified person with a disability or a person who “can perform the essential functions of theemployment position . . . and who does not pose a ‘direct threat’ to the health and safety of herself or others.” Neither party objected to this charge and noargument is advanced suggesting that it is erroneous. The court’s next instruction explained the employer’s defense that Ms. Rizzo was removed as the school van driver because CWLC thought she posed a directthreat to the health and safety of herself and others. The district court — faithful to our remand order in Rizzo I — charged that the “defendant has the burden toprove by a preponderance of the evidence that a direct threat exists.” No objection was made to this charge. [FOOTNOTE 1] The question of who bears the burden of establishing that an individual’s disability poses a direct health or safety threat to the disabled employee or others isnot a simple one. A number of cases either hold or suggest that direct threat is an affirmative defense on which the defendant ordinarily has the burden ofproof. [FOOTNOTE 2] Other cases hold to the contrary. [FOOTNOTE 3] Because neither side objected to either of the district court’s instructions described above, we review thischallenge for plain error. As we stated in Highlands Ins. Co. v. National Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, 27 F.3d 1027, 1031-1032 (1994): In the context of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 51 is even more restrictive than Criminal Rule 52(b); indeed, one circuit holds that it allows no new attacks on instructions on appeal. We thus agree with the Sixth Circuit that “[t]he principles and decision enunciated in Olano apply a fortiori in the civil context where courts pay less strict attention to procedural protocol.” Olano augments this court’s longstanding rule that reversal for plain error is “not a run-of-the-mill remedy” and will occur “only in exceptional circumstances to avoid a miscarriage of justice.” In allocating the burden of proof to the defendant to establish its defense, the district judge carefully followed the marching orders we gave him in Rizzo I. Inthis circumstance we are therefore unable to say the district court committed error at all. But, if we assume that the district court somehow committed error, itcertainly was not plain or “obvious” error and we need not resolve the burden of proof issue raised for the first time on appeal. [FOOTNOTE 4] Turning to the sufficiency question, our review of the record persuades us that the evidence amply supports the jury’s finding that Rizzo was able to drive thevan safely and did not pose a direct threat to her passengers. Ms. Rizzo produced evidence of her safe driving history and unblemished history of supervisingthe children without incident. Rizzo also produced evidence that CWLC evaluated her skills and gave her a driving score in excess of the minimum needed tobe able to drive the van. She was experienced in life saving procedures and possessed all licenses required by the State of Texas. Rizzo’s own testimony supported the conclusion that she had no difficulty supervising children on the bus. She testified about how she used the van’s internalmirrors and how she kept order on the bus. The evidence was clearly sufficient to support this jury finding. B. CWLC argues next that Ms. Rizzo failed to communicate with it to provide sufficient information about her disability to allow the employer to evaluate whethershe could perform the job safely. The district court–as part of its charge on reasonable accommodation–explained the obligations of the employer and employee to communicate with eachother about the employee’s disability and how that disability relates to job performance. [FOOTNOTE 5] In rendering a verdict for the plaintiff, the jury implicitly found no inadequate responsiveness by Ms. Rizzo in providing necessary information about hercondition. No objection was made to this charge so the question narrows to whether the evidence is sufficient to support this implicit finding. Viewing theevidence in a light favorable to the verdict, our review of the record persuades us that the evidence is sufficient. It is undisputed that before the parent expressed concern that Ms. Rizzo could not safely drive the van and supervise the children, CWLC knew a number ofimportant facts: Ms. Rizzo possessed a commercial driver’s license; she had taken and passed all of the written and performance criteria established byCWLC relating to van driving; and finally, no one had ever reported to appellant that Ms. Rizzo had failed to safely drive the van and supervise the children. Infact, the parent who expressed concern about Ms. Rizzo did not observe her engaging in any unsafe practices. In response to the statement made by the concerned parent, appellant’s director, Ms. Ryan, told Ms. Rizzo that she was concerned about whether Ms. Rizzocould hear a siren and whether she could hear a child choking in the van. Ms. Ryan told Ms. Rizzo that she could no longer drive the van until CWLC satisfieditself that she could do it safely. Following this meeting, Ms. Ryan indicated to Ms. Rizzo that CWLC would have an audiologist test Ms. Rizzo at the school.Despite inquiry by Ms. Rizzo, CWLC never arranged for such a test. Approximately three weeks later Ms. Rizzo went to her own audiologist. After testingher hearing, the audiologist reported that Ms. Rizzo should have no difficulty hearing a siren. Ms. Rizzo delivered the audiologist’s report to Ms. Ryan and toldher to call the audiologist if she had any questions. When Ms. Rizzo asked Ms. Ryan whether CWLC planned to have an audiologist test her at the school,Ms. Rizzo received no definitive answer. Ms. Ryan finally told Ms. Rizzo that the matter was in the hands of Ms. Ryan’s superior, Claudia Adame. When itbecame apparent to Ms. Rizzo that CWLC planned to take no further steps to resolve the question of whether her hearing impairment affected her ability todrive the van and supervise the children in the van, she resigned. We are satisfied that the jury was entitled to conclude that Ms. Rizzo adequately communicated with CWLC about her hearing impairment and the effect ofthis impairment on her ability to safely drive the school van. III. For the above reasons, the judgment of the district court is affirmed. [FOOTNOTE 6] DISSENTING OPINION JONES and SMITH, Circuit Judges, with whom WIENER, Circuit Judge, joins, dissenting: The result in this case is facially absurd: An employee whose numerous duties as assistant teacher and administrative aid include driving small children in theschool van is asked temporarily not to drive until she can show that her poor hearing does not endanger her young passengers. For this purportedlyreprehensible deed, done in the interest of child safety, the school must pay the impaired employee $100,000 plus attorney’s fees. Congress surely could not have intended such an outcome. We respectfully dissent. I. We agree with the majority to the extent that it resolves thorny substantive legal issues arising under the ADA. That is, the en banc majority, like the paneldissent, correctly concludes that the ADA requires employers and employees to engage in a good faith, interactive process of information exchange withregard to an employee’s disability and the availability of reasonable accommodations. An employee who unreasonably fails to provide the employer with suchinformation is thus precluded from pursuing an ADA action against his employer. We disagree, however, with the majority’s ultimate decision to affirm the judgment based on the verdict. The majority does so not only in the face of seriousdoubts about whether Rizzo provided adequate information concerning the scope of her disability to CWLC, but also despite a fatal flaw in her prima faciecase. Specifically, Rizzo failed, as a matter of law, to prove that CWLC took any adverse employment action because of her disability, a necessary element of anaction under the ADA. The majority, agreeing with the panel in Rizzo II, [FOOTNOTE 7] dispenses with this issue in a single, perfunctory footnote. We would reverse andrender on the ground that Rizzo did not present sufficient evidence of an adverse employment action to support the verdict. We additionally are troubled by the majority’s avoidance of substantive discussion of Rizzo I, [FOOTNOTE 8] in which the panel assigned the burden of proof to theemployer to show that an employee cannot safely perform an essential job function because of his disability and thereby poses a direct threat to the health orsafety of others. Rizzo I was incorrectly decided. The majority, however, altogether avoids this sticky question–admittedly made more difficult by faciallyinconsistent provisions of the ADA–by asserting that CWLC failed to raise the proper objection in district court. As we will explain, that position is untenable,because CWLC did adequately object. II. The ADA does not prohibit all discrimination on the basis of disability, but only discrimination that produces an adverse employment action. The Act expresslyprohibits employers from “discriminat[ing] against a qualified individual with a disability because of the disability of such individual in regard to job applicationprocedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privilegesof employment.” [FOOTNOTE 9] Therefore, “[t]o establish a prima facie case under the ADA one must show: (1) that he has a disability; (2) that he was qualified for thejob; and (3) that he was subject to an adverse employment decision because of his disability.” [FOOTNOTE 10] Rizzo not only voluntarily resigned her position, but did so over CWLC’s pleas for her to stay and inquiries as to what it might do to keep her. [FOOTNOTE 11] Rizzoalleges, however, that before her voluntary resignation, she was demoted; she presents two theories to establish her demotion. First, she maintains that she lost wages from having to work a reduced, split schedule, and felt stigmatized by her new duties. [FOOTNOTE 12] These actions may constitutea demotion, but an employee additionally must show that he was demoted because of his disability. [FOOTNOTE 13] Rizzo made no such showing. To the contrary, sheadmitted that her new duties “were duties shared by all CWLC employees to varying degrees” and that “others also worked split shifts.” [FOOTNOTE 14] The sole employment action for which there was evidence of impermissible discriminatory motive was CWLC’s temporary suspension of Rizzo’s drivingduties. [FOOTNOTE 15] That temporary employment action was taken, as CWLC readily concedes, as the direct result of parents’ complaints regarding Rizzo’s hearingdisability in the context of express concerns for child safety. But suspension–or even permanent removal–of driving duties alone does not constitute ademotion, for that employment action, alone, did not cause a change in pay or benefits. [FOOTNOTE 16] And although there need not be a “decrease in pay, title, or grade”to constitute a demotion, an employee at least must show that his reassignment of duties “proves objectively worse–such as being less prestigious or lessinteresting or providing less room for advancement.” [FOOTNOTE 17] “[A] ‘bruised ego’ is not enough.” [FOOTNOTE 18] A reasonable juror could not conclude that the elimination of van-driving responsibilities from the duties assigned to an assistant teacher and administrative aideconstitutes a demotion. There is nothing inherently prestigious or interesting or career-advancing about driving a van full of children. [FOOTNOTE 19] Rizzo therefore cannotmake the necessary objective showing of discriminatory demotion through her reduction in duties. Because neither temporary suspension nor even permanent removal of driving duties alone qualifies as a demotion, and because she did not show any otherdisability-motivated adverse employment action, Rizzo failed to present a prima facie case of liability under the ADA. This court should therefore reverse andrender judgment as a matter of law in favor of CWLC. III. Not only, however, does the majority look past the absence of an adverse employment action, but it also circumvents the significantly more challengingburden-of-proof issue by concluding that CWLC failed to object as required under Fed. R. Civ. P. 51. The majority errs in saying that CWLC did not objectand in refusing to address the validity of Rizzo I on that ground. More importantly, as we have said, Rizzo I was incorrectly decided. Under the proper rule, the employee, not the employer, has the burden to prove that hecan perform essential job functions safely notwithstanding his disability and does not thereby pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others in theworkplace. Unfortunately, we cannot rely on the text of the ADA to tell us how to assign the burden of proof, because different provisions conflict, and analogies to otherfederal employment discrimination laws are of limited utility. Nevertheless, under this circuit’s pre-Rizzo I precedent, we have held that the rule crafted toadjudicate claims under the Rehabilitation Act applies to ADA cases as well. [FOOTNOTE 20] Most persuasive, however, is the fact that the rule urged by the dissent inRizzo II offers the most practical solution to this vexing problem. A. To sustain an action under the ADA, an employee first must prove, as part of his prima facie case, that he is a “qualified individual with a disability.” 42U.S.C. � 12112(a). In other words, he has the burden to prove that he is “an individual with a disability who, with or without reasonable accommodation, canperform the essential functions of the employment position that such individual holds or desires.” � 12111(8). [FOOTNOTE 21] In the context of the ADA, ability to performan essential function means, inter alia, doing so without constituting a direct threat. Plainly, then, when discharging his burden of establishing the second element of a prima facie ADA case–qualification for the job–the plaintiff must showthat, in performing each essential function, he does not pose such a threat. Where, as here, the function is (1) driving (2) a van (3) full of pre-school-agechildren (4) on public streets in a high-traffic urban area, an employee with a disability that has an obvious nexus to performing that job function in a safemanner must negate the threat. True, the ADA also provides employers with the affirmative defense of showing a direct threat: It may be a defense to a charge of discrimination . . . that an alleged application of qualification standards, tests, or selection criteria that screen out or tend to screen out or otherwise deny a job or benefit to an individual with a disability has been shown to be job-related and consistent with business necessity, and such performance cannot be accomplished by reasonable accommodation. � 12113(a). “The term ‘qualification standards’ may include a requirement that an individual shall not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of otherindividuals in the workplace.” � 12113(b). In other words, it is the employee’s burden to prove that he is a qualified individual with a disability (which includes, in some cases, negating direct threat),and it is the employer’s burden to establish that an employee poses a direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals in the workplace. Theseprovisions, however, leave a troubling gap, one that is exposed by the facts of this case: Whose burden is it if, according to the employer, an employee is not aqualified individual because, as a result of his disability, his unsafe performance of an essential job function renders him a direct threat to others in theworkplace? On the one hand, imposing the burden on the employee requires him to prove that he is not a direct threat–a rule that appears to conflict with � 12113(b),which assigns the burden, completely and without exception, to the employer to prove direct threat, and not to the employee to disprove such a threat. On theother hand, placing the burden on the employer requires it to show that the employee cannot perform an essential job function safely–a rule that conflicts withprovisions of the ADA that expressly assign the burden to the employee to prove that, as a qualified individual, he can perform all essential job functions. To place the burden on the employer is to hold–absurdly, in our view–that unsafe execution of job duties nevertheless constitutes adequate performance.This approach effectively rewrites the ADA to require an employee merely to prove his ability to “perform the essential functions of the employment position,”� 12111(8), without regard “to the health or safety of other individuals in the workplace,” � 12113(b). As a matter of statutory construction if nothing else,such a rule is untenable. B. Because the answer cannot be found in the statutory text, we are licensed to look to other sources for guidance. No obvious solutions appear from simplylooking to other federal employment discrimination statutes. Nevertheless, this court has held that the rule governing burden of proof under the RehabilitationAct applies also to the ADA. See Daugherty, 56 F.3d at 697-98. Rizzo I therefore is flawed as a matter of stare decisis, violating our maxim that one panelcannot overrule another. 1. In Rizzo I, 84 F.3d at 764, the panel held that “[a]n employee who is a direct threat is not a qualified individual with a disability. As with all affirmativedefenses, the employer bears the burden of proving that the employee is a direct threat.” In other words, the panel placed the burden to prove direct threat onthe employer, and did so irrespective of whether the danger involves an essential job function–labeling absence of direct threat as a qualifier to be ahandicapped employee covered by the ADA, yet impermissibly shifting to the employer the employee’s burden of proving his qualification. This approach mirrors that taken with regard to the bona fide occupational qualification defense provided in other federal employment discrimination statutessuch as title VII and the ADEA. [FOOTNOTE 22] Under those provisions, the employer has the burden to justify the otherwise unlawful discrimination shown by theemployee by pleading and proving a business necessity defense. [FOOTNOTE 23] As this circuit has noted with respect to title VII, placing the burden of proof on theemployer to defend discriminatory acts on the basis of business necessity is consistentwith the purpose of the Act–providing a foundation in law for the principle of nondiscrimination. [Otherwise,] the exception will swallow the rule. . . . [T]heprinciple of nondiscrimination requires that we hold that in order to rely on the bona fide occupational qualification exception an employer has the burden ofproving that he had reasonable cause to believe, that is, a factual basis for believing, that all or substantially all women would be unable to perform safely andefficiently the duties of the job involved. [FOOTNOTE 24] The analogy is less than perfect, however. Unlike the ADA, which expressly applies only to “qualified individual[s],” [FOOTNOTE 25] title VII and the ADEA broadlyprotect “any individual,” [FOOTNOTE 26] limiting references to an employee’s ability to do the job to the provisions governing the bona fide occupational qualificationdefense. This is not to say that a title VII or ADEA plaintiff is not required, as part of his prima facie case, to prove he is qualified. After all, failure to make such ashowing constitutes failure to prove discrimination; an employer need merely present inability as the real motive behind the adverse employment action. [FOOTNOTE 27] Butthe distinction does undermine the analogy between disability discrimination, on the one hand, and age or sex discrimination on the other. It evincesCongressional understanding–not to say common sense–that an employee’s ability to do the job, and to do so safely, is a matter of heightened concern whenit comes to disability, and has a special meaning not present in the context of age or sex. Any reasonable legal regime that condemns employmentdiscrimination should therefore acknowledge and incorporate this distinction. 2. A closer analogy might be found in the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits recipients of federal funding from discriminating against an “otherwise qualifiedindividual with a disability . . . by reason of her or his disability.” 29 U.S.C. � 794. Under that statute, “the burden lies with the plaintiff to show that he isotherwise qualified,” and he is “otherwise qualified” only if he “‘can perform the essential functions of the position in question without endangering the health andsafety of [himself] or others.’” [FOOTNOTE 28] Even here the analogy is imperfect. Although the protected class–disabled individuals–is the same under both acts, the Rehabilitation Act, unlike the ADA,offers no explicit exception to liability for business necessity or workplace safety, whether as part of the employee’s prima facie case or as an affirmativedefense. The Chandler court thus was forced to construct an exception, using the “otherwise qualified” language as its statutory hook: Taken literally, “otherwise qualified” could be defined to include those persons who would be able to meet the particular requirements of a particular program “but for” the limitations imposed by their handicaps. The Supreme Court, however, expressly disapproved of such an interpretation because of the absurd results that would be produced. “Under such a literal reading, a blind person possessing all the qualifications for driving a bus except sight could be said to be ‘otherwise qualified’ for the job of driving. Clearly, such a result was not intended by Congress.” The Supreme Court instead defined an otherwise qualified person as “one who is able to meet all of a program’s requirements in spite of his handicap.”[ [FOOTNOTE 29] ] In light of the scheme of the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits discrimination against “otherwise qualified” individuals, without discussion of defenses orjustifications, it was only natural to place the burden on the plaintiff. Quite arguably, the ADA shows that Congress learned its lesson from the Rehabilitation Act, for the ADA not only expressly mentions both business necessityand workplace safety, but also lists them as affirmative defenses for employers. [FOOTNOTE 30] As we have discussed, other, conflicting provisions of the ADA prevent usfrom ending the analysis there. Nevertheless, the very existence of these affirmative defense provisions should give some pause before we incorporate theRehabilitation Act caselaw into our ADA jurisprudence. 3. This court, however, already has confronted the strengths and weaknesses of analogizing the ADA to the Rehabilitation Act. Perhaps adopting the old adagenot to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, we applied the Rehabilitation Act framework for burden of proof to the ADA, and did so before Rizzo I wasdecided. In Daugherty, 56 F.3d at 697, we stated that “[t]he elements of a cause of action at issue in our case . . . are virtually the same under the Rehabilitation Actand the ADA.” The Daugherty court went on to incorporate explicitly the Chandler rule into the ADA: In Chandler, we [stated that] . . . [a]n otherwise qualified handicapped individual is defined as one who can perform the essential functions of the position in question without endangering the health and safety of the individual or others. . . . [T]his holding likewise compels us to hold that under the ADA Daugherty is not a qualified individual with a disability for the position of bus driver. This essential element of his claim is lacking. Daugherty thus teaches that an employee’s ability to perform essential job functions safely is part of his prima facie case, under the ADA no less than underthe Rehabilitation Act. Therefore, the Rizzo I panel erred in placing the burden of proof on the employer. C. Because the text of the ADA is unyielding and beyond rehabilitation, and analogies to other federal employment discrimination statutes are of little help, courtsare left with no choice but to construct a rule that makes the best sense, while adhering as closely as possible to what we can discern Congress would havewanted. As we have seen, an obvious alternative to the rule of Rizzo I is to place the burden on the employee, as we did in Daugherty. [FOOTNOTE 31] That is theapproach urged by the dissent in Rizzo II [FOOTNOTE 32] and is the law in the First and Eleventh Circuits. [FOOTNOTE 33] This rule requires the employee to disprove that he is a direct threat to others, though only within the context of an essential job function. It would still leave itto the employer to prove direct threat either where an employee is unable safely to perform a non-essential job function, or where his disability only rendershim a threat to the workplace generally. [FOOTNOTE 34] Take this case as an example. Rizzo suffers from a hearing disability that, according to CWLC, renders her unable to drive children safely–one of the essentialfunctions of her job. The disability therefore directly implicates her ability to do that job. Under the rule advocated by the dissent in Rizzo II, she, as theemployee, has the burden to prove she can drive safely. There is much to be said on principle for this distinction between the ability to perform a particular job function safely, on the one hand, and being a generalthreat to the health or safety of others in the workplace, on the other hand. It recognizes that we may have special cause for suspicion when an employerjustifies discrimination not on the relatively concrete and more readily measurable basis of ability to perform a particular essential job function safely, butbecause of a proffered generalized concern about health and safety. “Few aspects of a handicap give rise to the same level of public fear and misapprehensionas contagiousness. Even those who suffer or have recovered from such noninfectious diseases as epilepsy or cancer have faced discrimination based on theirrational fear that they might be contagious.” [FOOTNOTE 35] We therefore may have reason to be particularly wary of an employer who asserts generalized rather than job-function-specific justifications. It is reasonableto allocate the burden of proof accordingly and to assume that Congress had Arline in mind when it enacted the ADA. [FOOTNOTE 36] Admittedly, nothing in the text of the direct-threat provision supports this distinction. But this approach does at least preserve some role for � 12113(b), byrequiring employers to prove direct threat when the issue does not concern an employee’s ability to perform an essential job function. In conclusion, the rule endorsed by the dissent in Rizzo II offers a practical, balanced solution to the problem, one to which the ADA unfortunately has left noanswer. By placing the burden on the employee with regard to essential job functions and on the employer for generalized, non-functional health concerns, itenforces the Congressional mandate that unjustifiable discrimination on the basis of disability is intolerable, while recognizing the reality that disability raiseslegitimate questions of employee qualification unique in employment discrimination law. By distinguishing between essential job functions on the one hand and other, generalized health and safety concerns on the other, this rule reflects the fact thatour most intense suspicions of untoward motivation are triggered when merely generalized concerns, lacking a basis in a concrete, particular essential jobfunction, are put forth to justify discrimination on the basis of disability. Having found the right answer in Daugherty, this court ought not to have departed fromit in Rizzo I. IV. The majority says it need not address Rizzo I because CWLC failed to file a proper objection. We disagree. Counsel for CWLC did object. The original instructions directed the jury to place the burden on Rizzo to prove she was a qualified individual with a disability,and the burden on CWLC to prove Rizzo constituted a direct threat to others in the workplace. The instructions further stated, however, that Rizzo would notbe a qualified individual with a disability should the jury find that she posed a direct threat to others–as Rizzo I itself suggested. [FOOTNOTE 37] Accordingly, CWLC was concerned–and understandably so–that the repeated reference to direct threat would confuse the jury and mislead it to believe thatCWLC not only had to prove direct threat, but also had to disprove Rizzo’s qualifications in toto, including absence of direct threat. CWLC thus objected andrequested a clarification, which the court denied. Having failed to obtain an additional instruction clarifying that Rizzo, and not CWLC, had the burden to provethat she was a qualified individual, CWLC must have found it futile to seek further instruction that Rizzo, and not CWLC, had the burden to prove ability toperform essential job functions safely and in a non-threatening way. Moreover, CWLC’s sense of futility must have been particularly daunting in light of the express language of Rizzo I. [FOOTNOTE 38] To be sure, as a general matter Fed. R.Civ. P. 51 provides that “[n]o party may assign as error the giving or the failure to give an instruction unless that party objects thereto before the jury retires toconsider its verdict, stating distinctly the matter objected to and the grounds of the objection.” But the rule is not without exceptions. “[F]ailure to object maybe disregarded if the party’s position has previously been made clear to the court and it is plain that a further objection would have been unavailing.” [FOOTNOTE 39] Forexample, where, “[a]t the time of the trial, the prevailing Fifth Circuit rule did not require submission of the requested charge . . ., further objection by theappellants would have been fruitless.” Id. Objection here would have been similarly fruitless–and thus similarly excused–for we had just recently sent the courtdirect instructions regarding burden of proof in Rizzo I. Given not only CWLC’s request for clarification on the proper scope of each party’s burden, but also the binding language of Rizzo I, the fundamental purposeof rule 51–to apprise the court of the legal issues in the case–was amply served here. CWLC’s argument therefore was preserved adequately for appeal. V. In summary, the ADA is not a paragon of legislative drafting. Particularly impenetrable is the statutory allocation of burden of proof regarding an employee’squalifications and the threat that disabled employees might pose to health and safety. The most realistic and principled resolution of this dispute would havebeen to reverse and render judgment for CWLC for want of an adverse employment action and to take any appropriate opportunity to address the faciallyconflicting provisions of the ADA on burden of proof of direct threat. Therefore, we respectfully dissent. :::FOOTNOTES::: FN1 The dissent disagrees with our reading of the record and takes the position that the defendant objected to the court’s instruction placing the burden of proofon the defendant to establish its affirmative defense of “direct threat.” Some background is helpful to understand why the objection the defendant points to onpages 452 and 453 (Volume V) of the record does not preserve this issue for appeal. The direct threat issue was presented in the district court in two ways: First, plaintiff was required to prove, as one of the elements of her case, that she was a”qualified individual with a disability.” The court defined this phrase as one who can perform the essential functions of the employment position without posing a”direct threat” to the health or safety of herself or others. The court instructed the jury that the plaintiff had the burden of proving this and other elements of hercase. Second, the defendant asserted an affirmative defense that plaintiff was removed from driving the van because her employment in this capacity posed a”direct threat” to the health or safety of others. The court charged that the defendant had the burden of proving this affirmative defense. The defendant’s only objection at trial that related to the defendant’s “direct threat” defense was to the court’s failure to require the jury to answer a separateinterrogatory on this defense. The defendant was concerned that without a separate jury issue on the defendant’s affirmative defense, the jury would becomeconfused and require the defendant to prove an element of the plaintiff’s case–that Rizzo was a “qualified individual with a disability.” Defendant makes a verydifferent argument on appeal. Instead of arguing that the court should have given the jury a separate interrogatory on the defendant’s affirmative defense, itargues that the court erred in assigning the burden of proof to it to establish this affirmative defense. The defendant’s objection did not complain of the court’sburden of proof instruction and this issue was not preserved for appeal. FN2 See EEOC v. AIC Security Investigations, Ltd., 55 F.3d 1276, 1283-85 (7th Cir. 1995); Nunes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 164 F.3d 1243, 1247-48(9th Cir. 1999); Hartog v. Wasatch Academy, 129 F.3d 1076, 1088-1089 (10th Cir. 1997); see also 29 C.F.R. � 1630.15(b)(2). FN3 Moses v. American Nonwovens, Inc. 97 F.3d 446, 447 (11th Cir. 1996); EEOC v. Amego, Inc., 110 F.3d 135, 142-44 (1st Cir. 1997). FN4 It is unclear from the statutory scheme who has the burden on this issue. It may depend on the facts of the particular case. The EEOC suggested atargument that where the essential job duties necessarily implicate the safety of others, the burden may be on the plaintiff to show that she can perform thosefunctions without endangering others; but, where the alleged threat is not so closely tied to the employee’s core job duties, the employer may bear the burden.See also EEOC v. Amego, 110 F.3d 135, 144 (1st Cir. 1997). None of these issues were raised in the district court and all we decide today is that thedistrict court did not commit plain error in its charge. FN5 The court charged as follows: For example, the individual needing the accommodation may not know enough about the equipment used by the employer or the exact nature of the work siteto suggest an appropriate accommodation. Likewise, the employer may not know enough about the individual’s disability or the limitations that disability wouldimpose on the performance of the job to suggest an appropriate accommodation. Where the missing information is of the type that can only be provided by one of the parties, failure to provide the information may be the cause of thebreakdown and the party withholding the information may be found to have obstructed the process. This determination must be made in light of thecircumstances surrounding a given case. If the employer does not obstruct the process, but instead makes reasonable efforts both to communicate with theemployee and provide accommodations based on the information it possesses, the employer has made a good faith effort of accommodation. An employer does not have the responsibility to go in search of information, such as medical advice, that is uniquely in the hands of the employee, particularlywhen the employee appears not to have been particularly responsive to requests for further information. FN6 The dissent takes the position that Rizzo’s proof failed as a matter of law to establish that Rizzo suffered an adverse employment action. We agree with thepanel opinion (Rizzo II) that a reasonable jury could have concluded that when Rizzo was prohibited from driving the van, her hours were reduced by about25% causing a similar reduction in her pay. This is sufficient evidence to establish an adverse employment action. FN7 See Rizzo v. Children’s World Learning Ctrs., Inc., 173 F.3d 254, 260 (5th Cir. 1999) (“Rizzo II”). FN8 See Rizzo v. Children’s World Learning Ctrs., Inc., 84 F.3d 758, 764 (5th Cir. 1996) (“Rizzo I”). FN9 42 U.S.C. � 12112(a) (emphasis added). FN10 Ivy v. Jones, 192 F.3d 514, 516 (5th Cir. 1999) (emphasis added). FN11 See Rizzo II, 173 F.3d at 265 (Wiener, J., dissenting). FN12 See id. at 260-61; id. at 271 (Wiener, J., dissenting). FN13 See Ivy, 192 F.3d at 516. FN14 Id. at 271 (Wiener, J., dissenting). See also id. at 260. FN15 See id. at 261; id. at 271 (Wiener, J., dissenting). FN16 The majority incorrectly attributes a reduction in Rizzo’s hours–and thus, her wages–to the suspension of her driving duties. In fact, Rizzo’s wages werenot reduced because of her hearing difficulties. When CWLC suspended her driving duties, CWLC simply reassigned her to perform other tasks to make upfor those hours. Indeed, Rizzo never lost her status as a full-time employee, but continued to enjoy all the benefits of full-time employment. Rizzo responds by asserting that her work hours nevertheless diminished. The dispositive issue, however, is not whether she worked less hours, but why. Therecord shows that it was ordinary business fluctuations resulting from the seasonal nature of daycare work–and not her loss of driving duties–that causedRizzo to receive reduced hours. The weeks immediately following Rizzo’s suspension of driving duties happened to coincide with CWLC’s lowest period of staffing need. Rizzo fails to rebutCWLC’s explanation with sufficient evidence that her reduced work hours were attributable to her loss of driving duties, rather than ordinary businessfluctuations. Beyond her own bare allegation, she cites only the testimony of Myra Ryan, CWLC’s director. But Ryan agreed merely with the fact that Rizzo’shours had decreased, and in fact expressly disagreed with counsel for Rizzo as to why that had occurred. FN17 Sharp v. City of Houston, 164 F.3d 923, 933 (5th Cir. 1999). FN18 Burlington Indus., Inc. v. Ellerth, 524 U.S. 742, 761 (1998) (quoting Flaherty v. Gas Research Inst., 31 F.3d 451, 456 (7th Cir. 1994)). FN19 Of course, our conclusion here–that the removal of driving duties does not alone constitute a constructive demotion under Sharp–does not affect ourview expressed in part III hereof that, for purposes of assigning burden of proof, driving is an essential function of Rizzo’s job. The former determination turnson such factors as the level of pay, prestige and challenge of work, and opportunity for career advancement. The latter, by contrast, is simply an employer’sgood-faith determination of what job functions are essential to a particular position. Thus, a function could be essential to the employer while not commandingextra pay and being devoid of prestige, challenge, or other objective value, the loss of which could constitute a constructive demotion. FN20 See Rizzo II, 173 F.3d at 272-73 (Wiener, J., dissenting) (citing Daugherty v. City of El Paso, 56 F.3d 695, 697-98 (5th Cir. 1995)). FN21 The ADA defers to an employer’s determinations of the essential functions of a job. See � 12111(8) (“For the purposes of this subchapter, considerationshall be given to the employer’s judgment as to what functions of a job are essential, and if an employer has prepared a written description before advertisingor interviewing applicants for the job, this description shall be considered evidence of the essential functions of the job.”). FN22 See 42 U.S.C. � 2000e-2(e) (title VII); 29 U.S.C. � 623(f) (ADEA). FN23 See Weeks v. Southern Bell Tel. & Tel. Co., 408 F.2d 228, 232 (5th Cir. 1969) (title VII); EEOC v. Univ. of Tex. Health Science Ctr., 710 F.2d1091, 1093 (5th Cir. 1983) (ADEA). FN24 Weeks, 408 F.2d at 235. FN25 See 42 U.S.C. � 12112(a) (prohibiting discrimination “against a qualified individual with a disability because of the disability of such individual”) (emphasisadded). FN26 See 29 U.S.C. � 623(a)(1) (prohibiting discrimination “against any individual . . . because of such individual’s age”); 42 U.S.C. � 2000e-2(a)(1)(prohibiting discrimination “against any individual . . . because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin”). FN27 See, e.g., Sreeram v. Louisiana State Univ. Med. Ctr.–Shreveport, 188 F.3d 314, 318 (5th Cir. 1999) (holding that plaintiff “failed to establish aprima facie case of sex and/or national origin discrimination because she failed to establish that she was qualified for the position in question at all relevanttimes”). FN28 Chandler v. City of Dallas, 2 F.3d 1385, 1393-94 (5th Cir. 1993) (quoting Chiari v. City of League City, 920 F.3d 311, 317 (5th Cir. 1991)(quoting 29 C.F.R. � 1613.702(f) (1990))). FN29 2 F.3d at 1393 (quoting Southeastern Community College v. Davis, 442 U.S. 397, 406, 407 n.7 (1979)). FN30 See 42 U.S.C. � 12113(a)-(b). FN31 See Daugherty, 56 F.3d at 697-98. FN32 See 173 F.3d at 273 & n.64 (Wiener, J., dissenting). FN33 See EEOC v. Amego, 110 F.3d 135, 144 (1st Cir. 1997) (stating that “in a Title I ADA case, it is the plaintiff’s burden to show that he or she canperform the essential functions of the job, and is therefore ‘qualified.’ Where those essential job functions necessarily implicate the safety of others, plaintiff mustdemonstrate that she can perform those functions in a way that does not endanger others. There may be other cases under Title I where the issue of directthreat is not tied to the issue of essential job functions but is purely a matter of defense, on which the defendant would bear the burden.”); Moses v. Am.Nonwovens, Inc., 97 F.3d 446, 447 (11th Cir. 1996) (holding that, where “[e]ach of Moses’s assigned tasks presented grave risks to an employee with aseizure disorder,” “[t]he employee retains at all times the burden of persuading the jury either that he was not a direct threat or that reasonableaccommodations were available”). FN34 Rizzo must contend that driving a bus is an essential function of her position. If it were not, CWLC could have made an offer “she couldn’t refuse” toaccommodate her by replacing that non-essential function with other duties. FN35 School Bd. v. Arline, 480 U.S. 273, 284 (1987). FN36 See Jeffrey A. Van Detta, “Typhoid Mary” Meets the ADA: A Case Study of the “Direct Threat” Standard Under the Americans with DisabilitiesAct, 22 Harv. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 849, 857-58, 860 (1999) (“The ‘direct threat’ standard had its genesis in litigation involving employees with contagiousdiseases under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 [citing Arline]. . . . When Congress considered the legislation that became the ADA, it used Arline as a startingpoint for grappling with disqualification of employees due to safety risks.”). FN37 See Rizzo I, 84 F.3d at 764 (“An employee who is a direct threat is not a qualified individual with a disability. As with all affirmative defenses, theemployer bears the burden of proving that the employee is a direct threat.”). This statement is itself contradictory: An employee has the burden of proving thathe is a “qualified individual,” which he cannot be if there exists a direct threat in his performance of an essential function; therefore, at least at that stage, proofof direct threat should not be the employer’s burden. Only if the employee establishes a prima facie case that includes performing each essential function safely(i.e., no direct threat in the physical performance per se) is the employer put in the position of having to advance and prove any affirmative defense, includinggeneralized threats to health and safety from the employee’s presence in the workplace. FN38 See Rizzo I, 84 F.3d at 764 (“As with all affirmative defenses, the employer bears the burden of proving that the employee is a direct threat.”). FN39 Lang v. Texas & Pac. Ry., 624 F.2d 1275, 1279 (5th Cir. 1980).
Rizzo v. Children’s World Learning Centers Inc. United States Court Of Appeals For the Fifth Circuit No. 97-50367 VICTORIA RIZZO, Plaintiff-Appellee, VERSUS CHILDREN’S WORLD LEARNING CENTERS, INC., Defendant-Appellant. Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas May 26, 2000 Before KING, Chief Judge, JOLLY, HIGGINBOTHAM, DAVIS, JONES, SMITH, WIENER, BARKSDALE, EMILIO M. GARZA, DeMOSS,BENAVIDES, STEWART, PARKER and DENNIS, Circuit Judges.
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