The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a district court's summary dismissal of a lawsuit by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against a New Mexico firm and awarded the defendants $140, 571.62 in attorneys' fees.

The EEOC was alleging a failure to accommodate for a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) against TriCore Reference Laboratories, but both courts sided with TriCore. In calling the lawsuit "frivolous," the Court of Appeals noted that “the EEOC continued to litigate the failure-to-accommodate and termination claims after it became clear there were no grounds upon which to proceed.”

The case involved an employee who was granted leave to recover from foot and ankle surgery and who requested an accommodation upon return to work. Since the woman was unable to perform the essential duties of her former position, TriCore (though it was not required to do so by law) arranged a new position for her. When she failed at that new job despite repeated coaching by TriCore, the woman applied for disability and received it.  Thereafter TriCore terminated her.

In court, TriCore asked for summary dismissal because the employee was unable to perform the essential duties of either of the two jobs she was assigned to, and the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico agreed. The EEOC pressed forward on appeal, but the Circuit Court tossed the case, noting that the agency had never even bothered to offer evidence that the woman could perform her duties with any type of reasonable accommodation.