Interactive process necessary to ADA accommodations

Q&A with Charlie Plumb

published in The Oklahoman | May 23, 2013

McAfee & Taft labor and employment attorney Charlie Plumb was featured in a Business Q&A in The Oklahoman discussing the mandated process businesses are required to work through to accommodate disabled employees upon their return to work. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to consider the possibility of a “reasonable accommodation” to allow a disabled employee to maintain his employment with the company.

“Reasonable accommodations are accommodations that don’t impose an undue hardship on the employer,” Plumb told The Oklahoman. “Depending on the situation, examples may include restructuring a position, reassigning the employee to a vacant position, altering a work schedule, making changes to the workplace to make it more accessible or usable, or even modifying equipment for them to use.”

Once a disabled employee is ready to return to work, the employer is legally obligated to engage in an “interactive process” with the employee to discuss the disabled worker’s specific limitations and consider potential accommodations that would allow him to overcome those limitations. However, the employer is not necessarily required to provide a specific accommodation requested by the employee, Plumb said.

“Some accommodations requested by employees may be unreasonable or impose undue hardship on the company. If there is an accommodation that is feasible, then as long the employer offers an accommodation that is effective and allows the employee to return to work, that employer has fulfilled its legal obligations under the ADA. Likewise, the employer can’t require the disabled worker to accept the accommodation offered. If the worker rejects an effective accommodation, they may not be qualified to remain in their job.”