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Act fast to accommodate deteriorating medical condition

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in Employment Law,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Under the ADA, employers must engage disabled employees in interactive discussions about how to reasonably accommodate their disabilities. But sometimes, an employee’s condition may take a rapid turn for the worse—making a previous accommodation no longer helpful or feasible.

How fast you act may mean the difference in winning or losing a later ADA reasonable accommodations case.

The best bet? Assess the situation as quickly as possible and stay flexible.

In the end, it may be impossible to adequately accommodate the employee’s condition. But don’t jump to that conclusion. Instead, work on interim solutions.

Recent case: Robert Floyd had vision problems that made it difficult for him to see the writing on his computer screen or work with customers on the sales floor at a Home Depot Expo Design Center. He informed his supervisors about his condition in March 2004.

Almost immediately, The Home Depot moved him to the front of the store to work as a greeter. The accommodation lasted until April 12, 2004, when Floyd could no longer work at all.

Floyd sued, alleging he had not been accommodated. The court disagreed and dismissed the case. Although Floyd also had wanted more breaks, it was clear that the company acted fast and reasonably in light of Floyd’s rapidly declining vision. (Floyd v. Home Depot, No. 07-14011, 11th Cir., 2008)

Final note: Remember that an accommodation has to be reasonable—but it does not have to be the exact accommodation the employee wants or thinks is ideal.

After discussing accommodation options, management should choose the reasonable choice best for its business needs. The Home Depot’s need—not Floyd’s preference—was the deciding factor in this case.

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