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Use trial accommodation to test feasibility

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Do you worry that starting accommodations for a disabled employee may mean you have to continue them indefinitely? Relax.

In fact, a trial accommodation may actually benefit employers in the long run. If the accommodation turns out to be disruptive, impractical or more costly than you thought it would be, you can stop it.

Recent case: Mark worked as a cable installer supervisor for over 30 years when he began having seizures. His job required him to use a company car to visit work sites and inspect installations. After he had his first seizure, state law dictated that he couldn’t drive for six months.

Mark asked to ride with others as a reasonable accommodation, which his employer, Mediacom, OK’d. He was warned, however, that this was a trial accommodation and that Mediacom was only making it because it hoped he would soon be able to drive again.

But then Mark had a second seizure, extending his driving restriction. The company continued the accommodation. Eventually, Mark got his license back, but lost it again a few months later following a third seizure.

Mediacom analyzed the accommodation and concluded it could not continue offering it because it was disruptive, required others to work additional hours and interfered with getting work done. Instead, it offered to transfer Mark to another job at a different location, which would not require driving.

Mark said the new job required a commute he couldn’t make. The employer countered that there were other employees who commuted from Mark’s town who could give him a ride. Mark turned down the transfer and was terminated.

He sued, alleging his accommodation should have been continued.

The court disagreed. It said the employer had shown the trial accommodation wasn’t reasonable and dismissed the case. (Minnihan v. Mediacom, No. 14-1109, 8th Cir., 2015)

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