Yes, employers are supposed to engage in an interactive process to arrive at reasonable ADA accommodations. But that doesn’t mean everything the employee wants, the employee gets. It’s up to the employer to determine which accommodation is both reasonable and best suited to its business needs.
Recent case: Nigel worked as a claim representative with the Social Security Administration. When he transferred from Philadelphia to a California office, he immediately told his supervisors that he suffers from dyslexia, bipolar disorder, ADHD, depression and high blood pressure. The conditions, he claimed, cause him to suffer from fatigue, headaches and a feeling of being emotionally overwhelmed when dealing with the public. Therefore, he demanded six months and 21 days of combinedand disability leave before essentially starting the job.
Over the next six months, Nigel went back and forth about his disability and what reasonable accommodations he needed. Meanwhile, he was on unpaid leave. When asked when he wanted histo start, he refused to answer. He also wouldn’t provide additional specifics about his condition, stating instead that he wanted exactly the amount of time off his original request specified.
After six months, the agency told him he was being discharged for exceeding available leave.
He sued, alleging that the agency had refused to engage in the interactive process.
The court disagreed. It noted that it was Nigel who had been uncooperative and that he wasn’t entitled to exactly the length of leave he requested. The case was dismissed. (Marvin v. Colvin, No. 1:15-CV-00220, ED CA, 2015)
Final note: Document each conversation about reasonable accommodations. Track information requests, the response and the final decision. Be patient, but don’t let the employee railroad you into an accommodation that isn’t reasonable or practical.
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