Denise Davis missed a lot of work over more than five years due to maternity leaves and her Crohn's disease. During this time, her employer continued to accommodate Davis by letting her work from home three days a week and providing a fax, computer and phone line for her home office. The company also adjusted her schedule when needed and continued to give her high performance ratings.
However, when the company asked her to sign a form explaining her work schedule, she refused.
Later, after a disagreement about sick days, Davis asked the company to put in writing what kind of schedule it required of her. When the company did, Davis rejected the plan. Instead, she immediately filed for long-term disability benefits and, within a month, filed Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The ruling: Davis's claim was thrown out because she failed to participate in the interactive accommodation process ADA requires. (Davis v. The Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America, No. 98-5209, E.D. Pa., 2000)
Advice: This employer did almost everything right. It accommodated Davis with a work-at-home arrangement. Even the decision to document the accommodation was wise, since other employees might point to a work-at-home arrangement as precedent.
This employer's one mistake: It didn't get the accommodation in writing right off the bat.
Also, you don't have to scurry around trying to accommodate disabled workers if they aren't going to meet you halfway. You both share the responsibility.
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