Slower pace is not a reasonable accommodation

Employers are supposed to offer reasonable accommodations so disabled employees can perform the essential functions of their jobs. That doesn’t mean, however, that disabled employees can insist on lower production standards or the ability to do their jobs at their own pace. Such requests are likely unreasonable.

Recent case: Jason worked as a field service analyst for a cable provider. He was responsible for trouble-shooting computer problems in his assigned territory.

Over the course of about eight years, he consistently received poor reviews, including complaints about his inability to close out complaints at an expected level. In Jason’s last performance review before going out on a medical leave, his supervisor commented that he didn’t seem capable of putting in a full day’s expected work. Jason was warned that if things didn’t drastically improve, he faced possible termination.

Then Jason had a heart attack and was out on FMLA leave for several months. On return, he requested reasonable accommodations: One hour off for cardiac rehabilitation three times a week, plus help with heavy lifting and a “slower pace” to do his job.

The employer approved intermittent leave for cardiac therapy and assigned a co-worker to help Jason with lifting.

However, it refused to change the pace of Jason’s work, noting that he already had a hard time meeting reasonable production standards. He was eventually fired for poor performance.

He sued, alleging failure to accommodate.

The court tossed out his lawsuit. It noted that employers don’t have to do away with essential functions when they accommodate a disability. Plus, Jason’s employer had approved other accommodations. (Pagan v. Cablevision, SD NY, 2018)

Final note: The employer here did everything right.

It carefully documented performance issues even before the employee became disabled. Then it approved appropriate leave and made accommodations that were reasonable under the circumstances.