Finance News & Insights

Defining unreasonable: How to turn down problematic ADA accommodation requests

From 2006 to 2016, EEOC charges against employers for ADA violations increased nearly 75%. With figures like that, some Finance chiefs feel it makes sense to grant each and every accommodation request that employees make. But that’s not the case.

At the 2017 SHRM Conference & Exposition, Pavneet Singh Uppal and Shayna Helene Balch, partners with the Fisher & Phillips LLP law firm, highlighted some of the reasonable accommodation request employers don’t have to make as well as a simple strategy to determine if a request is unreasonable and able to be denied without fear of losing an EEOC lawsuit.

ADA Decision Tree

One of the most basic — but highly effective — strategies the presenters introduced was an ADA reasonable accommodation decision tree. Employing this strategy from the get-go, can save employers a lot of time and headaches and come to an accommodation decision by just answering a few questions.

First, ask: Does the employee suffer from an actual disability? If the answer is no, the staffer isn’t entitled a reasonable accommodation and you can move on.

If, however, the answer is yes, the next question should be: Is the employee able to perform the essential functions of the job without a reasonable accommodation?

Here, if the answer is yes, no reasonable accommodation is necessary and the employer can move on from the situation.

When the answer is no, the employer must reasonably accommodate the know physical or mental limitations unless the accommodation presents an undue hardship or direct threat to the employer.

Whenever the ADA — and potential accommodations — are in play, employers must engage in the interactive process. To that end, the presentation highlighted the five essential steps of the interactive process, which include:

  1. Discuss the problem with the employee and, if necessary, obtain documentation
  2. Brainstorm about solutions
  3. Decide on an accommodation
  4. Implement and follow up (adjust as necessary with situation), and
  5. Document every step along the way.

What isn’t required

Uppal and Balch’s presentation also included a useful list of accommodation requests employers aren’t required to accommodate. If any of these come across your desk, you can feel confident denying the quest as long as you have proper documentation of your reasoning:

  • changing a job’s essential functions
  • lowering qualitative or quantitative production standards
  • allowing use of illegal drugs
  • providing treatment or monitoring of employee’s condition
  • allowing a disabled employee to violate work rules applicable to other employees
  • accepting violent conduct
  • eliminating stress from the work environment (may have to reduce stress though)
  • creating a new position
  • transferring an employee because of a personality conflict with a supervisor
  • granting an accommodation that imposes an undue hardship, and
  • tolerating erratic attendance or “work-when-you-feel-like-it” leave.

Based on “The Employee Accommodation Conundrum Part 2: How to Handle Complex Accommodation Requests,” by Shayna Helene Balch and Pavneet Singh Uppal, as presented at the 2017 SHRM Conference & Exposition in New Orleans.

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