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Suggest alternative job, and let employee get clearance

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When a disabled employee asks for an accommodation, your organization is supposed to discuss the request and make suggestions. But it’s not up to the employer to chase down the employee’s health care providers and see if a suggested job might fit the employee’s medical or other restrictions.

Suggesting a possible open position puts the ball back in the employee’s court.

Recent case: Daniel Jenkins worked for Cleco Power as a lineman until he fell from a utility pole and fractured his femur. Although he eventually returned to work, the injury left him disabled because he was unable to walk far or sit for more than a few hours.

Jenkins had trouble with several of the positions Cleco arranged for him to transfer to. Finally, Cleco offered him a position as a call-center specialist. Jenkins never asked for a copy of the job description; he simply assumed he wouldn’t be able to do the job.

In fact, his doctors had cleared him provisionally for a job that met the requirements for a call-center specialist. But Jenkins didn’t ask them about it, so he was unaware he might have been able to perform the job. Instead, he declined it and was discharged.

He sued, alleging that his employer should have provided him and his doctors with the job description and, because it hadn’t, it was responsible for the collapse of the accommodations process.

Not so, concluded the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. It was Jenkins who let the process fail since he didn’t ask for more details or contact his doctors concerning the job. The company did all it was required to do to help him get back to work. (Jenkins v. Cleco Power, No. 05-30744, 5th Cir., 2007)

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