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What if a disability accommodation might cause morale problems with other employees?

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Q. An employee whose doctor says she cannot stand for long periods of time recently requested an accommodation. She works as a cashier in a checkout line. The employee requested the opportunity to sit on a stool while she works. Our employees normally work 8.5-hour days, with a one-hour break for lunch and two 15-minute breaks throughout the day. We are concerned that giving this employee a stool will prompt other employees to request seats of their own, even though they do not have the disability she does. Do we have to accommodate her request, knowing that it could lead to significant morale problems?

A. Possibly. What is most important is that you conduct a dialogue with the employee and do what you can to accommodate her needs, while at the same time not interfering with the success of your business. Her request does not seem unreasonable in light of her doctor’s concerns. 

That said, there might be alternative things you can do to help this employee fulfill the essential functions of her job, while still complying with her medical restrictions. It is unlikely that her request will be deemed “unreasonable,” but that does not make it the “most reasonable” choice for accommodation.

Ultimately, the employers get to choose what accommodation to accept as long as it permits the employee to perform the essential functions of her job. The key is to continue your discussion with her in hopes of reaching a resolution that works for everyone.

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