Alert managers that they can't demote, fire or retaliate in any way against employees simply because they ask you to accommodate their physical ailments. That advice holds true even if employees clearly wouldn't be considered "disabled" under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Reason: As the following case shows, such accommodation requests count as "protected activity" upon which an employee can base an ADA retaliation lawsuit.
Bottom line: You're not obligated to accommodate every request, but you can never punish the employee for asking.
Recent case: Steven Wright, a district sales manager, was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD). When his anxiety level rose after being assigned to a new manager, his ADD symptoms worsened. Wright had a panic attack at work and needed to take some medical leave.
When he returned, he submitted two accommodation requests, but both were denied. Soon after, the firm fired Wright for insubordination because he missed a meeting.
He sued, claiming retaliation under the ADA, and a federal appeals court sided with him. Requesting an accommodation is a protected activity under the ADA, the court said, and since the firing occurred soon after Wright requested the accommodation, he had enough to establish a retaliation case. (Wright v. CompUSA Inc., No. 03-1099, 1st Cir., 2003)
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- The court affirms: Your employee has the right to an attorney
- Develop procedures for breaks that accommodate disabilities
- Your attorney's expertise is key to crafting severance agreements that stick
- Operator tech sues chemical company for sex discrimination