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Log ADA requests and start interactive accommodations process right away

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in HR Management,Human Resources

The ADA requires an employer that has reason to believe an employee wants an accommodation to begin an interactive accommodations process. Ignoring an accommodation request is dangerous. Instead, set up a process that logs all requests and puts the matter on the fast track to resolution.

Recent case:
Patrick Ward hurt his back while working as a wildlife technician for the state. He applied for workers’ comp and worked with some restrictions.

His supervisor apparently didn’t welcome this disruption and frequently made Ward do work that aggravated his injury. At one point, the supervisor told Ward, “If you can’t do your [expletive] job, take your crippled, old, geriatric [expletive] and go down the [expletive] road.”

Instead, Ward contacted HR, asking for an accommodation. HR acknowledged his request and told him it would look for open positions he was qualified to do. However, HR didn’t do anything for five months despite repeated accommodation requests. It then did a search for a few days—before terminating Ward. He had used all available leave, and when HR concluded there were no relevant openings, the state agency fired Ward.

Ward sued, alleging violations of the ADA and Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act.

The court said Ward had a case—reasoning that his former employer never engaged in an interactive process to determine whether he was disabled or whether he would be able to handle another position. Plus, the court looked at the supervisor’s comments as evidence of disability bias. (Ward v. Department of Natural Resources, No. 06-CA-2496, Court of Appeals of Colorado, 2008)

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