One of the questions the attorneys at the Spitz Law Firm are frequently asked is what accommodations must an employer make for a disabled employee? The answer – not surprisingly – depends on the employee’s disability, as well as the particular facts and circumstances of the employee’s employment.
Under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers must make reasonable accommodations to employees suffering from a disability, unless it results in an undue hardship. The accommodation must enable the employee to perform the essential functions of his or her job. While there are many different accommodations an employer must make if necessary to enable an employer to perform the essential functions of his or her job, one accommodation an employer is loathe to make is job restructuring and/or reassignment to other positions.
In a (very) recent Sixth Circuit case, Wardia v. Justice & Public Safety Cabinet Dept. of Juvenile Justice, the plaintiff, John Wardia, was a Youth Worker at the Campbell County Regional Juvenile Detention Center. Following neck surgery, Wardia was unable to perform physical restraints, an essential function of his job. Wardia requested – and his employer granted – a temporary accommodation working a different, light-duty position. After Wardia’s physician informed him that his disability was permanent, however, Wardia requested one of two permanent accommodations from his employer: (1) being relieved by a co-worker whenever a restraint needed to be performed; and (2) permanent re-assignment to the light-duty position. Wardia’s employer denied both of his requests and subsequently terminated him.
The Sixth Circuit upheld the district court’s dismissal of Wardia’s disability discrimination lawsuit. As to Wardia’s request that a co-worker relieve him whenever the need to restrain someone arose, the Sixth Circuit said: “The ADA does not require employers to accommodate individuals by shifting an essential job function onto others.” And as to Wardia’s request that he be permanently assigned to the light-duty position, the Sixth Circuit held: “Employers cannot be required to convert either rotating or temporary positions into permanent positions … [and] temporary light-duty positions for recuperating employees need not be converted into permanent positions.”
This case provides a nice illustration of what an employer does not need to do to accommodate a disabled employee. As an employee living with a disability, remember that just because you ask for an accommodation does not mean that your employer needs to grant the request. Even if the accommodation enables the employee to perform the essential functions of his or her job, the employer may refuse the accommodation if it imposes an undue hardship on the employer.
If you even think that your employment rights have been violated or that you might need an employment lawyer, then call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm is dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving employment disputes.
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