An employee cannot insist on a specific accommodation, particularly when other reasonable accommodations have been offered as part of the interactive discussion required under the American with Disabilities Act. In so finding, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit offered guidance to employers on what constitutes an employer’s good faith participation in the accommodations process.
As the court stated in Sessoms v. The Trustees of the Univ. of Penn., “An employer may demonstrate good faith in various ways, including meeting with the employee, requesting information about the employee’s condition and limitations, asking what the employee wants, showing signs of having considered the employee’s request, and offering and discussing available alternatives when the request is too burdensome.” In the present case, the employer engaged in these actions. The plaintiff, however, was unwilling to consider any accommodation that did not involve a change in supervisor. However, as the court noted, “Reasonable accommodation does not entitle an employee to a supervisor ideally suited to her needs.” Moreover, to the extent that the employee wants a transfer as an accommodation, it is necessary for the employee to show that there are appropriate and available positions, which the plaintiff did not do.
Interpreting and applying the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is often among the most challenging aspects of managing the workplace law and human resources functions at your workplace. There are numerous issues to consider with every new situation: Is the employee disabled under the terms of the law? Can the employee perform the essential functions of their job such that they are considered qualified? What reasonable accommodations might be in order?
There’s good news and bad news when it comes to answering these kinds of questions. The good news is that there are numerous judicial decisions released from courts across the country, seemingly on a daily basis, helping to shape the contours of the law. The bad news is that many of these cases seem to directly contradict each other and provide conflicting guidance—which can be incredibly frustrating for those attempting to navigate compliance issues.
This two-part article will take a deeper look at six recent decisions, each released in the last few months, and try to untangle the apparent contradictions that present themselves. When examined closely, these cases provide a good framework for handling ADA issues at your workplace. This first edition will cover the foundational issue that underpins every single ADA situation: whether the employee has a disability under the statute.
Most retailers have by now faced a Title III lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) contending that a store is not accessible to disabled individuals. There remains a plethora of attorneys who make a living finding non-compliant facilities and bringing suit to have the facility brought into compliance—while, of course, seeking recovery of their attorneys’ fees. The vast majority of these cases involve matters that can easily be and are fixed, which means the stakes and settlements are relatively small. However, when grouped together, the numbers can add up.