As my fellow employee rights attorneys here at Spitz have blogged about regularly, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) is a federal law that protects employees from employment discrimination based on an actual disability, perceived disability, or because the employee has a record of a disability. (Best Law Read: Can My Job Offer Be Pulled Because I Have A Medical Condition?). This prevents and employer from denying a disabled worker a raise or promotion and allows disabled employees to sue for wrongful termination. (Best Law Read: What Constitutes An Adverse Employment Action?). Additionally, and the focus of my blog today, the ADA requires to provide reasonable accommodations to actually disabled employees (not employees perceived to be disabled) that allows the employee to perform his or her job (Best Law Read: What Should Employees Know About Reasonable Accommodations?; Can My Employer Rescind My ADA Accommodation?).
What is the interactive process to determine a disability accommodation at work?
Best ADA Lawyer Answer: Once an employee requests the need for an accommodation and provides medical documentation, if requested by the employer, the employee and employer must engage in a process to determine ways that the employer can reasonably accommodate the employee. The ADA refers to this as the interactive process. (Best Law Read: What Is The Interactive Process For Disabled Employees? ). During this interactive process, the employee will typically identify a preferred accommodation. Additionally, the manager or human resources (HR) representative may also identify other accommodations that meet the requirements established by the employee’s doctor. Who gets to choose what ADA accommodation will be used?
Can the employee get any accommodation regardless of cost or difficulty?
Best Disability Accommodation Attorney Answer: No. Employees seeking an accommodation aren’t entitled to ANY accommodation. First, it must be reasonable. A “reasonable accommodation” is an adjustment to the job or surrounding circumstances that enables a disabled but otherwise qualified individual “to perform the essential functions of that position.” 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(o)(1)(ii). An employer must provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s disability, “absent undue hardship.” Id. § 1630.2(o)(4). The ADA recognizes “part-time or modified work schedules” as reasonable accommodations. 42 U.S.C. § 12111(9)(B). Employers do not have a duty to find part time only accommodations. (Best Law Read: Disability Discrimination: A Simple Illustration of A Reasonable Accommodation)
Does the employee get to choose his or her preferred accommodation?
Best Employment Attorney Answer: No. An employer need not grant “the employee’s preferred accommodation.” EEOC v. Agro Distribution, LLC, 555 F.3d 462, 471 (5th Cir. 2009); see Allen v. Rapides Par. Sch. Bd., 204 F.3d 619, 622–23 (5th Cir. 2000). And, the accommodation offered “does not have to be the ‘best’ accommodation possible,” so long as it meets the employee’s needs. 29 C.F.R. Pt. 1630, App., § 1630.9. The employer “has the ultimate discretion to choose between effective accommodations” and may choose an “easier” or “less expensive” option. Id.
For instance, recently in Allen v. United States Postal Serv., No. 21-30699, 2022 WL 2383869 (5th Cir. July 1, 2022), Marc Allen worked for the US Postal Service as a custodian. Allen started experiencing severe pain in his feet (likely from two years of standing on his feet for up to seven hours a day during his employment with USPS). He was ultimately diagnosed with plantar fasciitis.
Allen’s doctor provided strict work restrictions including: one hour standing followed by one hour of rest. Because of the work restrictions, Allen was given light duty work. However, after a year of the light duty, the US Postal Service re-evaluated whether his requests were in fact reasonable. Allen was requesting a fully sedentary assignment or alternate working and resting hours.
USPS said they would grant a request within the restrictions required by his medical requirements, which was to have Allen work for the medically limited one hour, clock out for his one hour of medically required rest, then clock in for another hour of work, then clock out again an hour later, and so on and so forth. However, this would have forced Allen to be paid HALF of what he was used to. Seems unreasonable, right?
Unfortunately, employees do not get to choose their preferred accommodation. When Allen sued for disability discrimination based on the employer’s failure to provide a reasonable accommodation, the Louisiana District Court held that Allen does not get to choose his preferred accommodation. Allen’s initial job duties required him to walk and stand seven hours a day. USPS did not have any available jobs in the maintenance department which included “desk work only.” Thus, the Court found that USPS accommodated by narrowing Allen’s job duties and allowing him to rest, provided he clock out. While this seems unfair to Allen, it meets his prescribed medical requirement and is thus, sufficient under the ADA.
Why is it important to get an ADA lawyer regarding issues at my job?
Best Disability Discrimination On My Job Lawyer Answer: As you can see, there are a lot of ins and outs to the ADA that make the accommodation process and the fallout very complicated. This is why it is important that when seeking an accommodation to reach out to an employment attorney at Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm to help you. Employees must work in conjunction with the Employers to find a reasonable accommodation. This is why it’s important you have an attorney to help you ask for the proper accommodation. Our discrimination lawyers know your rights and will fight to protect them. Call our top attorneys in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Toledo, Youngtown, Detroit, and Raleigh.
This employment law website is an advertisement. The ADA materials available at the top of this workplace disability accommodation page and on this employment discrimination law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “what is the process to get a employment accommodation for my disability?”, “how do I show my manager that I am disabled under the ADA?”, “what should I do if the company that I work for refuses to give me an accommodation” or “can my job fired me for asking for a disability accommodation”, it would be best for you to contact a knowledgeable attorney to obtain advice with respect to disability discrimination questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, attorney, Brian Spitz or any individual attorney.