ADA Compliance: Don't twist yourself into a pretzel to accommodate disabled employees

by on December 16, 2008 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Don’t turn the workplace upside down to meet ADA compliance for employees whose illness doesn’t allow them to do their jobs.

A recent ADA lawsuit from Nebraska clarified some disability rights for employers. The court found the employer wasn’t obliged to discuss accommodations for an employee whose job included a number of tasks he couldn’t do – like climb ladders – because he suffered seizures.

Under ADA guidelines, when an employee has a disability, the employer is supposed to engage in an “interactive process” with the employee to figure out whether an accommodation is possible.

But the court in this case refused to blame the company for not engaging in such a process.

The company was small enough and had so few employees that it would have been too disruptive to restructure this man’s job so he could do it, the court said. The alternative – changing the plant’s layout – wasn’t realistic, either.

Does ADA compliant mean reshuffling jobs?

By all means, do what you can to accommodate disabled employees. ADA compliance requires it.

You can restructure a job by shuffling certain nonessential tasks elsewhere. But you don’t have to reconfigure or eliminate a job’s essential functions to be ADA compliant. That isn’t considered a reasonable accommodation.

Cite: Smith v. Frank Implement Co., No. 06-1190, 8th Cir., 7/19/06.

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