ADA: You choose which accommodation to use

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Disabled employees are entitled to reasonable accommodations. But that doesn’t mean they get to select the one accommodation they prefer. As long as the accommodation is reasonable, the employer gets to choose which one best fits the situation.

Recent case: Andrew worked for the city of San Francisco as a plumber, a physically strenuous job that sometimes involved jack hammering streets to access water lines. When lower back and elbow pain caused problems, Andrew’s doctors recommended that he spend no more than 5.4 hours per shift digging with a shovel or installing pipes and not more then four hours per day walking, standing, bending, squatting or twisting.

HR agreed to follow the restrictions and Andrew returned to work. A few months later, Andrew complained that even with his modified duties, he was in pain. He asked to be considered for a claims investigator position that was open.

HR refused his accommodations request because Andrew wasn’t qualified for the job he wanted. Instead, HR hoped to further modify his current job, so Andrew was asked to provide any new information on his medical restrictions. Andrew’s doctors provided more restrictions and, yet again, he asked to transfer to another open job. The new restrictions showed that Andrew still couldn’t do his old job. HR told him he would be referred for other open positions if he would forward his résumé.

Instead, Andrew retired and sued. He alleged failure to accommodate for not allowing him to take the claims investigator job or the other position that was open.

The court tossed out his case. It explained that since HR had abided by his doctor’s initial recommendations, he had been accommodated—even if it wasn’t his preferred accommodation. (King v. City and County of San Francisco, No. C-11-01857, ND CA, 2012)

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