Many disabled applicants choose not to reveal their disabilities during the selection process and don’t reveal the need for reasonable accommodations until after they have been offered a job. That’s not surprising, since disabled applicants may fear that asking earlier in the process could lead to rejection.
Once a new employee has accepted an offer, she may feel safe enough to ask for the accommodation.
Don’t ignore that request, or you could wind up in court for violating the ADA.
After all, you presumably believe she can do the job. If you withdraw the offer after she reveals the disability, courts and juries are likely to jump to the logical conclusion that disability discrimination is at work.
Recent case: Dorothy Jackson worked as a part-time librarian for eight years. She has macular degeneration and is legally blind. When the library decided to create a full-time position, it offered Jackson the job.
She claims she accepted the job and then asked for several reasonable accommodations, including what she called a flexible schedule. No one would discuss the request. Instead, the library concluded she didn’t want the job and withdrew the offer.
Jackson sued, alleging failure to accommodate and disability discrimination. The court ruled in her favor. The smoking gun: The library’s refusal to even discuss whether Jackson could do the job with or without reasonable accommodations. (Jackson v. J. Lewis Crozer Library, No. 07-481, ED PA, 2009)
Final note: Be prepared to discuss possible alternatives before rejecting any request for accommodations. It may be that none is possible and that the offer should be revoked. But you can determine that only after discussing it with the applicant. Courts hate prejudgment. It smacks of bias and presumptions about what the disabled are capable of doing.
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