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Act fast to address employee’s request for ADA disability accommodation

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Never indefinitely delay addressing a disability accommodation request. In fact, you should make a decision as quickly as possible so the employee can’t accuse you of failure to accommodate through inaction.

Recent case: When Early hurt his back at work, he was offered light-duty work within his medical restrictions. Workers doing light-duty work were allowed a lunch break and two paid 15-minute breaks per shift. If possible, they were to report any other breaks they needed (for example, to visit the bathroom) before taking them. They recorded all their breaks on a timesheet.

Early soon asked for additional “pain breaks.” His supervisor said his request would be considered.

Meanwhile, Early was often criticized for taking too many breaks. He was also disciplined on one occasion for going outside while on the clock and spending two hours talking to his wife.

Then, two months later, while Early’s request for pain breaks was still pending, his supervisor caught him eating a hot dog and not doing any work. The boss verified the time by viewing surveillance film, concluded Early had not worked for about 45 minutes and then terminated him for stealing time.

Early sued, claiming in part that his accommo­­dation request had been ig­nor­­ed for so long it constituted denial.

The court agreed that a long delay could amount to an accommodation denial, but in this case, it didn’t matter. Early had been terminated for stealing time before the accommodation request had been ignored long enough to violate the law. (Velazquez v. ES3 York, LLC, No. 1:CV-14-0866, MD PA, 2015)

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