Not sure employee is disabled? Accommodate and wait for clarification
What should you do if someone requests a relatively simple accommodation but you aren’t sure the employee is actually disabled? Allow the accommodation while you analyze the situation.
There’s nothing wrong with accommodating and requesting more information at the same time. It protects you from a possible failure-to-accommodate claim if it turns out the employee really is disabled.
Recent case: Magdalena, a school counselor, asked the school district to accommodate her medical conditions—what she described as diabetes and several other medical issues. She wanted more time to eat and take medication, and to be allowed to wear sneakers while working. Management said she could take extra breaks but never officially approved her request.
A year later, when Magdalena was written up for exercising poor judgement, she requested formal acknowledgment of her accommodations. The district asked for more documentation so it could determine what accommodations to provide. It continued to allow Magdalena her prior accommodations.
Eventually, Magdalena was terminated for poor performance. She sued, alleging that she had not been accommodated because she never got a formal accommodation.
The court dismissed her claim, noting that she had received everything she had requested, even as the school district sought clarification and more information. (Eubank v. Lockhart, WD TX, 2017)
Final note: Appearances matter. The district appeared to be reasonable and accommodating while still requiring Magdalena to provide relevant medical information.