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What’s our ADA liability if an employee never informed us he needed accommodation?

by on
in Employment Law,Human Resources

Q. An employee recently resigned from our company. In his resignation letter, he told us that he was disappointed that we were unable to accommodate his sleep apnea. This employee—a manager—frequently fell asleep during meetings and at his desk. However, he never told us until he resigned that he suffered from any medical condition, including sleep apnea. How are we supposed to accommodate a medical condition that we don’t know about?

A. You’re not. Courts have recognized that the duty of an employer to make a reasonable accommodation also requires employers to interact with employees in a good-faith effort to seek a reasonable accommodation.

To show that an employer failed to participate in this interactive process, a disabled employee must demonstrate that:

  1. The employer knew about the employee’s disability.
  2. The employee requested accommodations.
  3. The employer did not make a good faith effort to assist the employee in seeking accommodations.
  4. The employee could have been reasonably accommodated but for the employer’s lack of good faith.

If an employee doesn’t advise his employer of a medical condition or ask for a reasonable accommodation, an employer’s obligation to engage in this interactive process never triggers.

Thus, you have no obligation to accommodate a medical condition you don’t know about or have no reason to know about.

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