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When employee suggests cheap accommodations, it’s worth your while to consider agreeing

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Sometimes, it makes sense to make an accommodation even if you aren’t entirely convinced the employee is disabled or that the accommodation will work.

Think of it as a risk/benefit analysis. If the requested accommodation is easy to implement and doesn’t cost a lot, why not make it? It’s probably much cheaper than defending an ADA lawsuit.

The fact is, if a court concludes the employee is disabled and you turned down an easy fix, you’ll probably lose.

Recent case: Schoolteacher Renae Ekstrand developed seasonal affective disorder—or SAD—a form of depression most often associated with the lack of daylight from the late fall to the early spring.

Ekstrand worked in a classroom with no natural light and requested a move to a room with windows. At the time, she didn’t explain to managers that the lack of natural light is a major contributor to SAD.

The school district provided her with some other accommodations, but wouldn’t move her classroom or switch with another teacher. Ekstrand claimed that as a result, she got anxious, nervous and depressed. She then took medical leave.

That’s when her doctors finally sent a note to the school explaining SAD and why Ekstrand needed natural light.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that as soon as the school district realized natural light would ameliorate Ekstrand’s SAD symptoms, it should have considered doing so. The court pointed out that the requested accommodation was simple, cheap and would not require anything other than the moving of some supplies and equipment. (Ekstrand v. School District of Somerset, No. 09-1853, 7th Cir., 2009)

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