Under the ADA, employers—not disabled employees—get to choose the reasonable accommodations that will help workers perform essential job functions. This often comes as a surprise to employees.
Of course, the ADA calls for an interactive conversation involving both parties to identify possible accommodations, but ultimately, it’s the employer’s call.
For example, it’s perfectly legal to transfer an employee to another position, even if the employee isn’t happy with the move.
Recent case: Lafreta worked for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in a department that advised localities on toxic substances in their area.
When she received a poor evaluation criticizing her failure to complete a project on time, Lafreta became physically ill. She called 911 and was taken away in an ambulance.
Her anxiety was so bad that she eventually requested and was approved to go out on.
When she was ready to return, she underwent a psychiatric examination. The doctor recommended that she not work under the same supervisor, since doing so might case her stress and anxiety.
The CDC offered to transfer Lafreta to another position as a reasonable accommodation, but she rejected it. In fact, she never came back to work and the CDC terminated her.
Lafreta sued, alleging failure to accommodate.
The court determined that the CDC had offered a reasonable accommodation to address the doctor’s concerns—a transfer. Lafreta never even offered an alternative. Her case was tossed out. (Dalton v. CDC, No. 14-13654, 11th Cir., 2015)
Final note: Typically in ADA cases, it’s up to the employee to identify an open position for which she is qualified and request a transfer.
But that doesn’t mean an employer can’t take the initiative to identify a position into which a disabled employee might transfer.
Especially when personality conflicts are at work, that may be the best move for all concerned. It gives the employee a fresh start, but also satisfies the employer’s obligation to accommodate.
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