Employers and employees are supposed to engage in the interactive accommodations process once an employee indicates she may be disabled. If she doesn’t cooperate, document it.
You can use that later to show she’s to blame for not receiving an accommodation.
Recent case: Shirley worked for the University of Minnesota and had trouble with her supervisor. They didn’t get along and Shirley became depressed. She asked for a transfer to a different office, working under another supervisor. She also missed a lot of work.
Shirley was told that if she wanted accommodations for her depression, she had to contact the disability services coordinator. Shirley did, but refused to fill out the necessary forms because she was afraid that would label her as disabled.
Because she didn’t cooperate, the university initially rejected both requests. However, it later offered to move her to a different office.
Shirley sued anyway, alleging she had been refused an ADA accommodation. The university argued that Shirley had dropped the ball by refusing to provide information.
It also contended that providing her with another supervisor was impossible because no one else was available.
The court tossed out the case. It reasoned that Shirley had indeed failed to cooperate, while the university had acted in good faith. (Bar-Meier v. University of Minnesota, No. 10-936, DC MN, 2012)
Final note: Another interesting issue in this case is whether the ADA even covers a disability that results from a specific interpersonal relationship. That is, can an employee argue that her boss is making her depressed and then demand a new boss as an accommodation?
The court didn’t have to answer that question because it tossed out the case for other reasons—namely that the university was not in a position to make that accommodation under the circumstances.
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