Some employees think that merely declaring they have a disability means it’s up to the employer to figure out an accommodation. That’s not entirely true. The ADA accommodations process is an interactive one, requiring input from both employee and employer.
Recent case: Kathy worked for UPS for many years as a delivery driver. Then she injured her shoulder and was out for about two years on various medical leaves and workers’ compensation. Eventually, she told UPS she was ready to return to work, but with restrictions.
UPS asked for medical information on her restrictions and got several conflicting reports. One showed her ready to return with a 40-pound lifting restriction. Another said she was unable to work as a delivery driver at all, but could work a sedentary job instead.
After reviewing its job descriptions (which clearly stated that drivers had to lift packages weighing up to 70 pounds on their own) and looking for other openings, it told Kathy she would not be rehired.
Kathy sued, arguing that UPS had refused to engage in the interactive ADA accommodations process and hadn’t suggested any accommodations.
The court tossed out her case. It said Kathy was also obligated to engage in the process, by suggesting potential accommodations. She hadn’t done so, while UPS had at least considered options by asking for medical information and reviewing it before rejecting her request. (Wright v. United Parcel Service, No. 11-1563, CD CA, 2012)
Final note: Be sure to track the entire accommodations process, from the moment an applicant or employee notifies you of a disability to the point when she’s either accommodated or you conclude no accommodations are possible.
If you accommodate her, check back to see if the accommodation is working.