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Rejecting job redesign for disabled employee? Document why it would be unreasonable

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Job restructuring is one of the reasonable accommodations listed in the ADA, and many disabled employees do ask for their duties to be modified as part of the reasonable accommodations process.

If you reject such a request, be sure to document exactly why doing so would be unreasonable under the circumstances. You can use cost, inconvenience and anything else that might make drastically changing the job an undue hardship.

Recent case: Cathryn Coleman, who worked as a patient intake clerk at a hospital, developed a neurological condition that made it difficult to speak. She underwent therapy and her doctor put restrictions on how many hours a day she could speak.

She asked the hospital to allow her to spend only half the day using her voice and the other half attending to other duties. She sued after the hospital refused.

The hospital said Coleman’s job required speaking almost constantly throughout the day, and said no other positions were open.

But the court said the hospital had to prove that restructuring the job would be unfeasible and unreasonable. It ordered a jury trial. (Coleman v. Cook County, No. 09-CV-739, ND IL, 2010)

Final note: There is a fine line between job restructuring as an accommodation and having to create a new job. The ADA doesn’t require the latter, but does require you to at least consider the former. To show that restructuring isn’t an option, list all the objective reasons why it would be expensive, impossible or unreasonable.

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