The ADA reasonable accommodations process is supposed to be interactive. Because disabilities can worsen or improve, the accommodations process must also be ongoing—and it doesn’t necessarily end with the first accommodation.
But sometimes, a disabled employee can become unreasonable as time passes. You may decide to revoke an accommodation or refuse to modify it. If he sues, clear documentation showing what you did over the years can mean winning the lawsuit.
Recent case: Ricky worked as a mail handler for the U.S. Postal Service, moving, loading and unloading bulk mail. Before he was hired, Ricky revealed he had injured his knee while serving in the military. Later, he hurt his back working at the post office and underwent two operations. Throughout the recovery period, he took time off.
Finally, his doctors believed he was well enough to return to light-duty work. However, almost immediately he began complaining about continuing back pain. He periodically took more time off when the pain flared up.
Ricky started complaining that he wasn’t always able to use newer forklifts that apparently were more comfortable to operate than older ones. To accommodate his back injury, Ricky asked to be assigned to full-time forklift work—using only the newest forklifts—for his entire eight-hour shift.
Ricky and his managers discussed several accommodations options, including the forklift proposal. However, it turned out that it would have involved creating a new position, something prohibited by a union contract. The Postal Service suggested that Ricky continue in his light-duty position instead.
He rejected the offer, retired instead and sued.
The case was dismissed after the court concluded that there was no obligation to use Ricky’s preferred accommodation as long as another accommodation would also be reasonable. (Philips v. Donahoe, No. 1:11-CV-279, MD NC, 2013)