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Set up standard process for responding to accommodations requests–and use it every time

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources

One of the quickest roads to the courthouse is to ignore or brush off a disabled employee’s request for accommodations. At least investigate the possibilities before denying a request.

Recent case: Ryan Brown worked as a police officer until he was terminated. Brown claimed that in the run-up to his discharge, he began suffering from anxiety and depression. When he sought professional treatment, his supervisors found out.

That’s when Brown claims that a shift supervisor placed him on modified duty and spoke openly about Brown’s depression in front of other employees.

When Brown complained about the breach of his privacy, he was told he had to undergo a fitness-for-duty examination. The examiner then concluded Brown was unfit for duty as a law enforcement officer and might be a danger to himself and others.

Brown then requested reassignment to a desk job as a reasonable accommodation. His request was ignored and he was terminated.

He sued for disability discrimination, claiming he should have been reasonably accommodated.

A trial court dismissed his case, but now the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals has reinstated his lawsuit. It said Brown should have a chance to show he is disabled or that his employer perceived him as disabled and that his request for accommodations was ignored. (Brown v. City of Long Branch, No. 09-3632, 3rd Cir., 2010)

Final note: Create a standard process for handling accommodations requests. Then be prepared to follow it in every case.

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