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Accommodate disability, insist on performance

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Smart employers make reasonable accommodations without too much hassle, and they often go above and beyond what’s legally required to adapt to the needs of their disabled employees. They still keep an eye on disabled employees’ performance to make sure they’re successfully doing their jobs.

Recent case: Norah worked for medical device maker Medtronic. A bout with cancer left lingering, long-term effects—including a suppressed immune system and heart problems—that led to frequent absences for medical appointments.

She requested several accommodations such as telecommuting privileges and an altered schedule so that she could go to her regular doctor’s appointments. Medtronic approved almost every request.

However, Norah still wasn’t performing her job up to the company’s standards. She was offered a transfer to another, presumably less strenuous, position.

She refused the transfer—and sued instead. She alleged that the company resented her accommodation requests and therefore terminated her on account of her disability.

But Medtronic’s attorneys showed the court Norah’s work history, including examples of serious mistakes.

The court tossed out her lawsuit, concluding that although the company made accommodations, Norah still couldn’t perform the job well enough to meet Medtronic’s reasonable expectations. (Oehmke v. Medtronic, No. 16-1052, 8th Cir., 2016)

Final note: Medtronic offered some practical and relatively painless accommodations in this case. For example, it usually allows workers to telecommute two days per week, but extended this for Norah.

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