Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers are required to make “reasonable accommodations” for disabled employees so that they can continue to perform the essential functions of their jobs. In some cases, this might mean making physical changes to the workplace to make it more accessible or usable. In other cases, it might include purchasing special equipment or modifying work schedules.
But what if these changes impact other employees? Are employers still obliged to accommodate the disabled in these instances?
McAfee & Taft labor and employment attorney Tony Puckett was featured in The Oklahoman discussing a recent Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals case which focused on this very issue. In Carter v. Pathfinder Energy Services Inc., the court rejected the company’s argument that it could no longer accommodate the plaintiff — who was granted a modified work schedule because of his disability — simply because it feared other workers would quit. The court ruled in favor of the discharged employee, finding that the employer’s actions violated the ADA.
Puckett noted that there are circumstances under which an employer can end a specific accommodation, though. For example, if an employer believes there is a change in the employee’s medical condition, the company can request an updated medical restriction statement from the employee’s physician. If the physician’s statement supports a change in accommodation, the employer may make that change. Puckett also recommends that employers be up front with employees about the length of time the specific accommodation will be provided and clearly state that any further accommodation will be subject to review after that time. In accordance with the ADA, any discussion of accommodations — or changes in accommodations — should be done with the employee using an interactive process.