What should you do if an employee has a disability that prevents him for doing his job? The ADA says you must try to find a reasonable accommodation. But who decides what’s reasonable?
The case: Joseph had an unusual problem, considering his occupation. A painter at a California prison, he had vertigo, which made it dangerous to work on ladders and scaffolds. The prison offered informal accommodations for several years, such as having a helper or prisoners handle painting high walls and ceilings.
But then Joseph’s condition worsened, and he had to take a fitness-for-work exam. Doctors said he could no longer perform an essential function of his job: painting anywhere other than with his feet on the ground.
The prison offered to transfer Joseph to another maintenance job that didn’t involve any climbing. However, it paid less.
When he declined, he was fired. Then he sued, alleging failure to accommodate his disability.
The verdict: The court dismissed Joseph’s case, because the prison fulfilled its ADA obligations.
The lesson: It’s up to the employer to choose which ADA reasonable accommodation it wants to offer a disabled employee. If the worker wants a different accommodation, he’s out of luck.