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Thwart ADA Claim by Pointing to Good-Faith Efforts

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

The ADA requires employers to work with disabled employees to arrive at a reasonable accommodation. But that doesn't mean you have to give employees exactly the accommodation they want.

Making a good-faith effort to accommodate such employees can serve as your defense if you're later sued. That's why you should keep track of all discussions, memos, letters and other evidence about your attempts to reach an accommodation, especially if those efforts ultimately lead to denying an accommodation. The effort alone may be enough proof to beat a lawsuit.

Case in point: John Fendrick suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder. When the condition flared up, his doctors recommended that he be allowed frequent breaks and no changes in his work assignments.

Fendrick's employer discussed possible accommodations with him, but eventually concluded it couldn't accommodate the restrictions. Fendrick took five months' paid leave and returned to work when his health improved.

Fendrick still sued, alleging the company denied his accommodations as retaliation for making the accommodation request. He argued that even though his employer may have acted in good faith, the fact that it denied his accommodation was enough to show disability retaliation.

The court disagreed, saying good-faith efforts are a defense. If the employer can show it judiciously considered the request, those efforts might shield it from liability even if it turns out an accommodation was possible. (Fendrick v. PPL, No. 05-1887, 3rd Cir., 2006)  

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