Short ADA accommodations delay no problem

Employers faced with a request for an ADA reasonable accommodation are supposed to start the interactive accommodations process as soon as possible. But coming up with an accommodation isn’t always easy.

It’s OK to temporarily assign the worker to different tasks or another department while you figure it out.

Recent case: Derrick worked on heavy industrial machinery—a grinder—which required him to sit with his knees bent awkwardly. When Derrick began experiencing knee pain, he went to his doctor, who referred him to an orthopedic expert. The ortho doc recommended that Derrick not work on machinery that required prolonged sitting with limited knee movement.

Derrick presented the medical information to his supervisors and requested a reasonable accommodation of being assigned to a different machine.

The employer then assigned him to temporary duty cleaning the facilities while it evaluated the accommodations request. Derrick was paid his usual salary for the two days he spent cleaning, days which corresponded with the remainder of the regular work week. But Derrick asked to be assigned to a hand grinder instead.

The employer refused to change the schedule for the week, but did place him back in his old position the next week, minus work on the grinder. This, the employer argued, was a reasonable accommodation and was within the medical restrictions Derrick’s doctor recommended.

Derrick sued, alleging failure to accommodate. He argued that the two days of cleaning was punishment for requesting an accommodation.

The court disagreed, noting the temporary aspect of the reassignment and the permanent accommodation arrived at within a few days. It dismissed the case. (Green v. Arcelormittal Plate, ED PA, 2018)