Employers that grant disabled workers more flexibility in work requirements need to make sure they document every ADA accommodation request and every accommodation decision.
Those records can become evidence later if another employee claims the disabled worker received preferential treatment.
Recent case: As a condition of her employment as a police officer at a Veterans Administration hospital, Alice was required to qualify twice a year with an approved firearm. The test required her to place 40 of 50 rounds completely inside a standard target in a certain amount of time, shooting from various distances and using different stances. Alice first qualified in 2002, and remained qualified through 2010.
Then she hurt her knee at work and was temporarily assigned to alternate duty, performing clerical work. While on alternate duty, she did not train with her firearm and was exempt from the firearm qualification requirement.
But before she could resume her normal duties, VA policy required her to re-qualify with her firearm. When Alice was cleared to resume her normal law enforcement officer duties, the VA directed her to report to the firing range with her gun before practicing. She shot poorly and abandoned her efforts to qualify after about 20 rounds.
Along with two other officers who also failed to qualify, Alice was sent to the Law Enforcement Training Center in Arkansas to receive firearms training. She received two and a half days of classroom training on firearms and one and a half days at the practice range. It didn’t help. She failed again and was terminated.
Alice sued, alleging sex discrimination, but her case was dismissed. She said one of the other officers got an extra chance to qualify. But it turned out that he had made the case that doing so was a reasonable accommodation. Alice, however, never requested any reasonable accommodations at all. (Buckhanan v. Shinseki, No. 15-60643, 5th Cir., 2016)