Here’s a tip that can save your organization from a large disability discrimination verdict sometime down the line: Whenever an employee discloses that he may need some sort of disability accommodation, make sure you carefully document the request and your response.
You want to be able to show the court that you considered each request. List the specific accommodations the employee requested. That way, he can’t later claim he asked for another type of accommodation and you rejected the request.
Recent case: Thomas Bower was an engineer working on a probationary basis. Compared to other engineers in his section, he was relatively unproductive. As a result, his supervisors met with him several times and explained the need for him to work faster and harder.
Then Bower was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He had to have weekly injections to keep symptoms at bay. The shots left him fatigued, so he arranged to have the injections on Friday afternoons.
Bower explained his condition to his employer and asked for an accommodation of two hours off every Friday. His supervisor granted the request and HR sent him a notice explaining that if he needed additional accommodations, he should make a written request. Company records showed that it did not receive any other requests from Bower.
Bower was then demoted for failing to meet productivity goals. That’s when he sued, alleging he should have been accommodated with a reduced workload, given his need for time off every Friday.
The court dismissed his case. It reasoned that Bower couldn’t expect an accommodation he never requested, noting that the employer’s records showed he had only asked for two hours off, not a reduced workload. (Bower v. San Francisco, No. 09-03507, ND CA, 2011)
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