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Reasonable accommodation? Not employee’s call

by on
in Firing,Human Resources

Some disabled employees think the ADA allows them to demand a particular accommodation and turn down their employer’s suggestions. That’s not true.

Employees don’t have to like the accommodations you propose. As long as the workplace changes are reasonable and actually accommodate the disability, you have done everything the law requires.

Recent case: Michael was fired from his job with the Allegheny County Port Authority after he failed a drug test. He sued, alleging he had not been offered reasonable accommodations for an injury to his shoulder.

Michael’s job had been to change tires on large trucks and buses, which required considerable strength and physical stamina. Over several years, he was periodically placed in light-duty jobs while healing from shoulder injuries. He didn’t particularly like light duty since it mostly consisted of cleaning out vehicles.

At one point, Michael had de­­manded a helper to work alongside him on his regular job. He said that was a reasonable accommodation. The authority always refused, and instead claimed the light-duty assignment was a reasonable accommodation.

The court sided with the port authority. It noted that em­­ployees don’t have the right to demand a particular accommodation as long as their employer offers a reasonable one. Light-duty work cleaning vehicles fit the bill. (Brud­­nak v. Port Authority of Alle­­gheny County, No. 09-1304, WD PA, 2012)

Final note: Always keep good records showing your accommodations efforts. Often, employees will wait until they have been fired to sue. That can blindside you if you don’t routinely document the accommodations process.

Remember, you can’t know ahead of time who will sue or for what reason. Employees who have been fired have nothing to lose by suing—and they’ll look for any possible excuse to take you to court.

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