The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that a reasonable accommodation regulated under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is one that permits the employee to do his/her job and it need NOT be the accommodation the employee requests. This holding chips away at the widely held belief that disabled employees are super-protected and able to demand a specific accommodation.
In the case at issue, a legally blind employee of a Dairy Queen was unable to perform the duties of nondisabled employees as to a specific job. His manager assessed the duties he could perform and assigned him to a different job. The employee was dissatisfied with the new placement, as it was not the accommodation he had requested. The employee resigned and sued. The Court explained that under the ADA employers need only offer accommodations that enable a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of the position.
In another case involving an employee who used up her sick leave and then asked for another 6 months of leave as an accommodation, the 10th Circuit agreed that such an accommodation was not reasonable because it did not allow the employee to perform the essential functions of her job. The Court noted that the purpose of the ADA is to provide disabled individuals with opportunities to work, not to not work.
These rulings may help employers facing dilemmas in assessing requested accommodations by qualified employees with disabilities.