Worker must articulate ADA needs, alterations

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

After you have implemented a reasonable accommodation for a disabled employee’s medical restrictions, it’s up to the employee to ask for any modifications that may be necessary. If he doesn’t, he can’t later allege that the accommodation didn’t work or wasn’t appropriate.

Recent case: Abidan worked for Walmart as an overnight deli stocker. He had been employed for just a short time when he went out on workers’ compensation leave for carpal tunnel syndrome. After a few months off, his doctor released him to light-duty work with no heavy lifting or repetitive wrist motions.

As a reasonable accommodation, Walmart stationed Abidan at the front of the store as a greeter. Sometimes greeters were told to return unsold goods to their proper shelves. Abidan used a cart to do that. He left anything heavy in the cart for someone else to lift.

Then Abidan got into a shouting match with his boss when he couldn’t get his magnetic badge to work properly. The angry exchange was captured on camera. Abidan was fired for violating Walmart’s policy against fighting and making threats.

He sued, alleging, among a long list of claims, that his disability had not been accommodated. Abidan said that restocking in­­volved re­­petitive wrist movements, in violation of his medical restrictions.

The court tossed out the claim. It reasoned that once Walmart put an accommodation in place, it was up to Abidan to tell someone that it wasn’t working. He hadn’t done so and therefore couldn’t now claim the company failed to accommodate his disability. (Muhammad v. Wal-Mart, No. 10-CV-6074, WD NY, 2012)

Final note: Make sure the em­­ployee knows he’s supposed to approach HR about any problems with the approved accommodation. Tell him exactly who to contact and how to do so.

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