Managers must resist the temptation to reject out of hand any employee request for reasonable accommodations. To do so would be a big mistake.
The ADA requires employers to engage in an interactive process to determine if an employee is entitled to an accommodation and what that accommodation should look like.
The major consideration is whether the requested accommodation (or an alternative one) will allow the employee to perform the essential functions of the job.
Recent case: Richard Boandl’s work for the IRS required him to visit taxpayers in the field. He was disabled, having contracted polio as a child. He walks with a pronounced limp and uses a wheelchair most of the time.
Boandl asked the IRS to provide him with a cell phone so he would not have to climb in and out of his car while searching for a working pay phone. The agency denied his request, explaining that he could return calls when he got back to the office.
Boandl sued, alleging failure to accommodate and engage in the interactive process. He pointed out that one essential function of his job was to contact taxpayers and witnesses in the field. That required him to speak with them by phone.
The court ordered a trial, concluding that the agency should have discussed the requested accommodation more fully before rejecting it. (Boandl v. Geithner, No. 09-4799, ED PA, 2010)