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Handling a disability claim: step by step

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Q. We recently terminated an employee who couldn’t get his work done on time (and basically couldn’t sit still). He had told his supervisor before that he had attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but that wasn’t taken into consideration. Now he’s threatening to sue. Are we at risk, and should we settle? — A.L., Connecticut

A. Deciding whether to settle a case requires consideration of many factors—from legal to financial to practical—and your attorney can give you this guidance. However, let me address the underlying issue. If you discipline an employee for failing to meet a performance standard and he responds by telling his supervisor that his ADHD (or other impairment) prevents him from meeting the performance standard, that exchange triggers certain obligations under the ADA or similar state law.

As a next step, you should request supporting medical documentation and engage in a good-faith discussion with the employee to find out whether any reasonable accommodation would enable the employee to meet the performance standard. 

If the employee fails to provide medical documentation or denies needing any accommodation, he can be disciplined accordingly. But if he requests an accommodation and provides satisfactory medical documentation, you must decide promptly whether the accommodation is “reasonable” and whether it will enable the employee to meet the performance standard.

If so, the accommodation should be provided and the employee should be held to the performance standard. If the employee still fails to meet the performance standard and there’s no other reasonable accommodation that will enable him to do so, he can be disciplined, up to and including termination.

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