Some employees are completely unable to get along with others. That’s usually a personality issue. But sometimes, psychological problems may be at the heart of the trouble and the employee may claim she has a disability that must be reasonably accommodated.
In most cases, the request probably can’t be accommodated because few jobs allow for total isolation. Employers don’t have to create jobs as an accommodation, making the only possible option termination.
Recent case: Carolyn worked for the U.S. Postal Service for many years, working her way up to a supervisory role. But she started getting into arguments with many of her subordinates, who filed grievances.
Carolyn’s supervisor made several suggestions. He told Carolyn she could transfer to a different location. She declined the offer. Then he suggested counseling, which she tried, with no improvement. Finally, he changed her shift so she would not come into direct contact with the subordinates she had argued with. She then stopped coming to work.
Carolyn used up her leave and then requested a reasonable accommodation based on her diagnoses of depression, anxiety and panic disorder. She wanted to work in isolation, away from both her subordinates and supervisors. The post office refused to accommodate.
She sued, alleging failure to accommodate.
The court tossed out her case after concluding that managing subordinates and having contact with one’s supervisors were essential job functions that she simply couldn’t perform. The case was dismissed. (Sapp v. Donohoe, No. 12-41121, 5th Cir., 2013)
Final note: If an employee has a personality problem, don’t assume it’s a disability. Instead, discipline appropriately. You only have to consider accommodations once she requests them and you become convinced she’s disabled. Begin discussions while you ask for a doctor’s assessment.