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Document your good-faith efforts to implement ADA accommodations process

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

The ADA requires employers to work with employees who need reasonable accommodations. Show you did so in good faith by documenting the process. That means tracking email exchanges, taking notes during meetings and generally responding as quickly as possible.

Be sure to note the employee’s actions, too. If she fails to respond to your accommodation offers, she’s unlikely to win a failure-to-accommodate lawsuit.

Recent case: Gaye worked for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), performing clerical work. Twice, she filed workers’ compensation claims. The first was for a sore shoulder; the second for carpal tunnel syndrome. Gaye asked for accommodations each time.

After receiving her email request, DHS almost immediately asked her for more medical information in order to assess what accommodations might be needed. She never responded. After the second request for accommodations, Gaye’s attorney told DHS to contact him directly. The agency sent him a list of questions, but again got no response.

Gaye then sued, alleging failure to accommodate.

The court tossed out her lawsuit, noting that DHS had twice asked for information and got no response. It said the accommodations process is a two-way street. (Larson v. Napoli­­tano, No. 10-4830, DC MN, 2012)

Final note: The court also concluded that Gaye wasn’t disabled. Her only limitation turned out to be having to use scissors to open packages, pliers to open coffee can pull tabs and some pain when doing her hair. That’s pretty minor.

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