First suggestion needn’t be last word: You’re free to choose reasonable accommodation

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

When an employee asks for a reasonable ADA accommodation for a disability, you don’t have to accept her first suggestion. Her idea may well be a good one, but there could be other accommodations that make more economical and practical sense for your organization.

You are under no obligation to provide the employee’s preferred accommodation if you have another one that’s also reasonable.

Recent case: Lorene Williams worked for the Brunswick Board of Education for more than 30 years. She suffers from diabetes and asked to use six months of accumulated sick leave when she began feeling worse than usual. Meanwhile, the school system underwent a reorganization that involved transferring 15 employees, including Williams.

That’s when Williams asked to remain in her current position until retirement—as a reasonable accommodation.

The school district allowed Williams to take the sick leave, but refused to reinstate her to her former position. Instead, it insisted that the spot she was slated to take over in the reorganization would be just as reasonable. The jobs were largely identical and provided the same pay and benefits.

Williams sued, alleging failure to accommodate.

The court disagreed. It said Williams wasn’t necessarily entitled to her preferred accommodation if her employer’s choice would work. It dismissed the lawsuit. (Williams v. Brunswick County Board of Education, No. 7:08-CV-140, ED NC, 2010)

Final note: The court also doubted that Williams was disabled based solely on feeling poorly.

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