Q. One of our employees claims that traffic gives her anxiety and wants to alter her work schedule to avoid driving during peak travel times. It wouldn’t be a big deal but we’re afraid that if we do it for her, we will start to receive similar claims from other workers who have similar commutes. Do we have to accommodate her?
A. Under the ADA, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability.
Although courts in Pennsylvania have not specifically addressed whether an employer has a duty to accommodate an employee’s traffic-induced anxiety, the ADA defines reasonable accommodation to include a modified work schedule, among other things.
Moreover, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals has held that “changing [a] working schedule to day shifts in order to alleviate ... disability-related difficulties in getting to work is a type of accommodation that the ADA contemplates.” (Colwell v. Rite Aid Corp., 602 F. 3d 495, 3rd Cir. 2010).
The question here is whether the employee’s anxiety constitutes a disability and whether she requires a reasonable accommodation. If the employee provides sufficient medical documentation to establish those factors and the accommodation does not pose an undue hardship, you should allow the employee to alter her schedule.
Alternatively, you should talk to the employee about other possible alternative accommodations, if any are available.