Employers and disabled employees are supposed to engage in an interactive process to decide on reasonable accommodations. It should be a two-way conversation.
If you suggest possible accommodations and the employee either turns them down or doesn’t follow through, make sure you create a solid, contemporaneous record of the discussions. Later, you may need to be able to recall exactly what happened.
Recent case: Roger Mann worked as a patrol officer for Madera County, but suffered several injuries on the job. Once, he hurt his elbow and shoulder while corralling an unruly suspect. He also hurt himself by stepping in a hole while making a traffic stop. All in all, he missed considerable work for medical treatment and surgery.
After his last medical leave, his doctors said he could no longer engage in the strenuous work of a patrol officer. Mann then met with HR to discuss his options. According to the HR professional who spoke with Mann, she suggested several alternative positions outside the sheriff’s department that might fit his medical needs.
But she said Mann told her he wasn’t interested and would try to get medical clearance so he could return to patrol service. When he couldn’t get clearance, HR placed him on disability retirement.
That’s when he sued, alleging failure to accommodate.
But the jury hearing the case placed the blame on Mann, finding that HR had in fact suggested reasonable accommodations, which Mann had rejected. The case was dismissed. (Mann v. County of Madera, No. F058779, California Court of Appeal, 5th Appellate District, 2011)
Advice: You can throw the ball in the employee’s court by suggesting possible jobs and telling him to apply. If he doesn’t, you’ve done what you are required to do.
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