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You–not worker–choose ADA accommodation

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Employers, not disabled employees, have the right to decide which reasonable accommodation will be used. As long as the accommodation works and the employee is able to perform her job with it, no additional help is due.

Recent case: Magdlyn St. Cyr, who uses a wheelchair, worked for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), where her job was to monitor radio traffic.

She sat at a console in a room filled with other monitor stations. Some of the consoles adjusted low enough that she could use them while seated in her wheelchair, but some didn’t. Since employees got to choose consoles on a first-come, first-served basis each morning, sometimes St. Cyr couldn’t find one that adjusted well. When that happened, she had to switch with someone.

Plus, the handicapped-accessible door closest to her workstation fre­­quently failed and had to be repaired. When that happened, St. Cyr had to use another handicapped-accessible entrance.

St. Cyr sued, alleging that she was discriminated against because of her disability. She made two main claims:

  • The first was that she should have been assigned permanently to a console that adjusted to her wheelchair rather than have to rely on switching. She claimed her co-workers resented having to switch.
  • Second, she claimed the DHS should have been more vigilant about keeping the door near her station in working condition.

The DHS argued that insisting that someone switch consoles when St. Cyr couldn’t find one that fit was a reasonable accommodation—and the one it chose to offer. It also said that there was never any question about having an accessible entrance, and that it had met its obligation.

The court agreed and threw out the case. (St. Cyr v. Napoli­­tano, No. EP-10-CV-208, WD TX, 2011)

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