Reasonable accommodation: Shifting tasks among employees

by on March 26, 2012 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Cafe

Accommodating an employee’s disability may require an employer to move certain duties around among co-workers, two recent legal cases remind us.

In one case, in Arkansas, a gas station employee who suffered from seizures and was medically advised not to drive asked her employer to let her swap tasks with another employee.

Driving around

The first employee, who was supposed to drive to competing stations each day to do a gas price survey, said she could handle the co-worker’s in-store duties while the co-worker did the price survey.

But, the EEOC said, the employer refused the accommodation and fired her. The EEOC sued for disability discrimination, and the employer settled the case for $190,000.

In the other case, in Illinois, a federal court ordered auto parts retailer AutoZone to pay $415,000 in damages and lost wages to a former employee.

The employee, a sales manager, was also required to do cleaning duties that violated his medical restrictions. As a result, the EEOC said, he was injured. He now suffers permanent impairments to his neck and back.

Key to both cases: One reasonable accommodation you may have to consider is the transfer of a person’s non-essential duties to co-workers.

Note the stress on non-essential. If, for example, the sales manager had asked the employer to reallocate his sales duties to a co-worker, the employer wouldn’t have been obliged to accommodate him in that way.

Cite: EEOC v. Autozone Inc.; EEOC v. D&H Co.

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