Employees with disabilities who receive reasonable accommodations may create a certain amount of resentment among co-workers. Of course, jealous co-workers probably don’t realize that the employee received a special schedule or other accommodations because of an ADA disability—after all, that kind of information is confidential unless the disabled employee herself tells others.
That may make it difficult when co-workers complain and can’t “fix” the supposed favoritism or reveal why it’s happening.
Don’t, under any circumstances, use co-worker resentment over disability accommodations as a reason to transfer or terminate the disabled employee.
If you’re intent on getting rid of a disabled employee, you’d better have a better reason than that.
Recent case: Becky Becerril has temporomandibular disorder, which makes it hard for her to speak for sustained periods of time.
When she was transferred from one position to another, she assumed the reason was that her co-workers had complained that she was receiving accommodations for her condition. She sued.
But her employer was able to show that co-worker complaints about Becerril involved —not her accommodations. The court threw out her case. (Becerril v. Pima County Assessor’s Office, No. 08-17070, 9th Cir., 2009)
Final notes: How should you handle co-worker complaints about accommodations? You obviously can’t reveal the reason for the apparent favoritism, because that would violate the ADA. The best approach: During your regular training sessions, explain the ADA and the confidentiality of accommodations, but do so in a generic way that’s not linked to an individual.
Cover the ADA and the confidentiality of ADA accommodations in your employee handbook, too.
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