Here’s a simple tip that can save your organization time and legal troubles in the long run: Train all your managers and supervisors to tell employees asking for disability accommodations to take up the matter with the HR department. Don’t let managers go it alone with their own accommodation efforts.
Also, have supervisors report the referral directly to HR so the request can be documented.
Those simple actions by the manager may serve as a defense if the employee should later claim a supervisor refused to consider an accommodation request.
Recent case: John, a meat clerk at a Kroger grocery store, had foot surgery. He returned with a note from his doctor that restricted his lifting ability to no more than 25 pounds and called for 15-minute breaks every two hours. John’s supervisor reviewed the note, but told John he didn’t think the store could honor the restrictions, telling him there was no work in the store that didn’t require lifting at least 25 pounds. He did, however, tell John to contact the HR office and he sent the note directly to HR.
John went back to his doctor and explained what his supervisor had said. The doctor then said, “Then fine. You can go back to work with no restrictions.” John went back to work with the new note. He never contacted the HR office or asked for another accommodation.
Two years later, John sued, alleging failure to accommodate. The court tossed out the case. It noted that John had dropped his accommodation request within 24 hours by getting a “no restrictions” note from his doctor, hadn’t called the HR office again during the two-year period that followed and never mentioned the problem again. He clearly knew how to request an accommodation but hadn’t done so. (Aldini v. Kroger, No. 15-1044, 6th Cir., 2015)