When Jack Jay tore his Achilles' tendon, his doctor said he shouldn't work anymore in a job that involved climbing. Unfortunately, his position as a millwright required him to climb stairs and ladders to reach equipment that he repaired.
His employer put Jay on a medical layoff until it could find a position for him. It took 20 months. Instead of a "thank you," Jay sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), claiming the company failed to restructure the millwright job and took too long to find a position.
The court ruled for the company, saying that although a delay in offering a reasonable accommodation can sometimes equal discrimination, this employer met its duty.
Job restructuring can be a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. But, as this court noted, the employer isn't required "to shuffle job responsibilities" or bump another worker to create a vacancy. (Jay v. Intermet Wagner Inc., No. 99-4208, 7th Cir., 2000)
Advice: Courts will recognize and reward your genuine efforts to accommodate a worker, so document the steps you take. In this case, the employer didn't just assume that Jay couldn't do the millwright's job after his injury. It asked the foreman whether the duties could be adjusted to eliminate climbing. When the foreman said there wouldn't be enough work, the employer also asked Jay for suggestions. Then, it checked every week to find him a vacancy.