After the adaaa reasonable accommodation update
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After the ADAAA: Reasonable Accommodation Update. Oct. 5, 2012 Prince William County SHRM. Recognizing Accommodation Requests. --Accommodation request is a request for some sort of change for a medical reason; request need not be in writing and need not contain any “magic words”

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After the ADAAA: Reasonable Accommodation Update

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After the adaaa reasonable accommodation update

After the ADAAA: Reasonable Accommodation Update

Oct. 5, 2012

Prince William County SHRM


Recognizing accommodation requests

Recognizing Accommodation Requests

  • --Accommodation request is a request for some sort of change for a medical reason; request need not be in writing and need not contain any “magic words”

  • --“Tips” for recognizing requests


Recent case law on what constitutes an accommodation request

Recent Case Law on What Constitutes an Accommodation Request

Sufficient Notice:

  • Individual does not have to call medical condition a “disability”; inadequate notice is when employee does not say enough for employer to know a medical condition is at issue. Syndnor v. Fairfax County, Va., 2011 WL 836948 (E.D. Va. Mar. 3, 211).

  • Oral request for accommodation okay despite contrary company policy. Kravits v. Shinseki, 2012 WL 604169 (W.D. Pa. Feb. 24, 2012).


After the adaaa reasonable accommodation update

Insufficient Notice:

  • Plaintiff notified employer of panic disorder and agoraphobia but never requested any accommodation, stating that “if [the employer] believed that I needed certain accommodations . . . [it] would come to me and say so.” Garner v. Chevron Phillip Chemical Co., 2011 WL 5967244 (S.D. Tex. Nov. 29, 2011).


Consequences of employer s failure to communicate and clarify

Consequences of employer’s failure to communicate and clarify:

  • Employer’s failure to tell employee that request submitted on wrong form or to provide time to return paperwork can be evidence of employer “bad faith” in the interactive process. Cox v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 441 Fed. Appx. 547 (9th Cir. 2011).


After the adaaa reasonable accommodation update

  • Employer’s denial of request on ground that information provided was not specific enough, without advising employee and asking for the additional details needed, can render the employer responsible for the breakdown in the interactive process. Valle-Acre v. Puerto Rico Ports Auth., 651 F.3d 190 (1st Cir. 2011).


Timing of requests

Timing of Requests

May be made at any time during the application process or during employment

An employee does not lose the right to request an accommodation because he did not do so during the application stage

Employees may make more than one request for reasonable accommodation


Does the requesting employee have a disability

Does the Requesting Employee Have a Disability?

  • When considering if an individual who has requested accommodation has an impairment that “substantially limits a major life activity” or has a record of same, remember the changes made by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008

  • ADAAA: the definition of disability “shall be construed broadly” and “should not demand extensive analysis”


The adaaa s major changes to the definition of disability

The ADAAA’s Major Changes to the Definition of “Disability”

  • Congress made 4 main changes to “substantially limited in a major life activity”:

    1. Need not be a “severe” limitation or “significantly restricted”

    2. Major life activities include “major bodily functions”

    3. Ameliorative effects of mitigating measures not considered

    4. Impairments that are “episodic” or “in remission” are substantially limiting if they would be when active


Courts have rejected reliance on pre adaaa case law

Courts Have Rejected Reliance on Pre-ADAAA Case Law

  • See accompanying handout summarizing post-ADAAA cases

  • Courts have found a wide variety of impairments to meet the “substantially limits” standard on the individual facts shown, e.g. carpal tunnel, depression, cancer, cancer in remission, “cancer free,” HIV, hepatitis C, kidney disease, PTSD, sleep apnea, heart disease, anemia, asthma, back and disc impairments, knee injuries, monocular vision, morbid obesity, multiple sclerosis, stuttering, two broken femurs, Graves’ Disease, and others


Types of impairments that will virtually always be found to be substantially limiting 1630 2 j 3 ii

Types of Impairments That Will Virtually Always Be Found To Be Substantially Limiting [§ 1630.2(j)(3)(ii)]

  • Regulations emphasize that individualized assessment still required

  • But, for certain impairments, this individualized assessment will virtually always result in a finding of substantial limitation due to the inherent nature of these conditions AND the extensive changes Congress made to the definition of disability


Types of impairments that should easily be found to be substantially limiting 1630 2 j 3 iii

Types of Impairments That Should Easily Be Found To Be Substantially Limiting[§ 1630.2(j)(3)(iii)]

  • Deafness, blindness, mobility impairments requiring use of a wheelchair, intellectual disability (mental retardation), partially or completely missing limbs

  • Autism, cancer, cerebral palsy, diabetes, epilepsy, HIV infection, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy

  • Mental impairments such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia


Condition manner or duration 1630 2 j 4

Condition, Manner, or Duration[§ 1630.2(j)(4)]

  • Regulations retain these factors as concepts to consider, if relevant, in determining whether a substantial limitation exists

  • May consider difficulty, effort, or length of time required to perform major life activity; pain; amount of time major life activity may be performed; the way an impairment affects the operation of a major bodily function


More examples from revised eeoc regulations

More examples from revised EEOC regulations

Back or leg impairment that causes significant pain if standing more than two hours = substantially limited in standing

Impairment that does not cause pain until the 11th mile of walking  not substantially limited in walking

Back or leg impairment that causes 20 lb. lifting restriction expected to last several months = substantially limited in lifting


9 rules of construction in revised eeoc regulations

9 rules of construction in revised EEOC regulations

  • 29 C.F.R. 1630.2(j)(1)(ix): No minimum duration -- Impairment lasting fewer than six months may be substantially limiting-- e.g., cancer and other “episodic or in remission” cases; Fleck (mini-stroke causing 2 weeks off of work)

    -- but not everything is covered: court cases finding limitations too minor and short-term (H1N1 virus, torn-ACL, post-colonoscopy discomfort, etc.) and cases finding insufficient evidence of limitations


When and how much supporting medical information can the employer request

When and How Much Supporting Medical Information Can the Employer Request?

  • ADAAA has not changed the legal rules regarding when and how much medical information employers can request.

  • If not obvious or already known, an employer may obtain reasonable documentation that an employee has a disability and needs the accommodation requested.


Supporting medical information

Supporting Medical Information

Employer may ask employee to obtain information from treating health care provider, or ask employee to sign limited release allowing employer to contact doctor directly.

For example, employer might seek to verify diagnosis and limitations, follow up to clarify limitations, and/or determine what accommodation might be effective.


After the adaaa reasonable accommodation update

  • If adopting internal reasonable accommodation procedures spelling out your process, consider indicating who is authorized to request and review medical information from employee and/or employee’s health care provider, and to have any follow up communications.


After the adaaa reasonable accommodation update

Effect of Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) on Employer Requests for Medical Documentation

Title II of GINA prohibits employers from requesting, requiring, or purchasing genetic information (which includes family medical history) of applicants and employees

Inadvertent acquisition of genetic information does not violate Title II of GINA

If request for documentation for accommodation indicates that genetic information should not be provided, any genetic information employer gets will be deemed inadvertent; see GINA regulations for model language


Qualified

“Qualified”

May arise if employee requests to be relieved of performing a particular duty due to medical restrictions

(To be “qualified,” employee must be able to perform the essential (or fundamental) functions of a position (with accommodation, if needed, or without reasonable accommodation, if not needed).

An employer never has to eliminate an essential function of a job as an accommodation.


Relevant information in determining whether a function is essential may include

Relevant information in determining whether a function is essential may include

  • Employer’s judgment

  • Terms of a written position description

  • Terms of a collective bargaining agreement

  • Experience of current or past employees

  • Amount of time spent performing the function

  • Consequences of not performing the function


After the adaaa reasonable accommodation update

  • If accommodation requested involves removing a duty, is it an essential function?

    • If so, it need not be removed, but can employee be accommodated to perform it?


After the adaaa reasonable accommodation update

  • If the employee cannot be accommodated to perform the essential function, he is not qualified for that position, but he may still be qualified…can the employee be reassigned to a vacant position for which he is qualified (the accommodation of last resort)?


Examples of common types of accommodations

Examples of Common Types of Accommodations

Physical modifications

Sign language interpreters and readers

Assistive technology and modification of equipment or devices

Modified work schedules

Making exceptions to policies

Job restructuring (swapping or eliminating marginal functions)

Changing supervisory methods

Job coach

Telework

Leave

Reassignment to a vacant position


Undue hardship

Undue Hardship

Consider the following factors:

Nature and cost of the accommodation (“significant difficulty or expense”)

Resources available to the employer overall (not just individual department)

Impact of the accommodation on operations


Actions not required as an accommodation

Actions Not Required as an Accommodation

Lowering production or performance standards (though pro-rate production requirements for period of leave as an accommodation)

Excusing violations of conduct rules that are job-related and consistent with business necessity

Removing an essential function

Monitoring an employee’s use of medication

Providing personal use items

Changing someone’s supervisor (though changing supervisory methods may be required)

Actions that would result in undue hardship (i.e. significant difficulty or expense)


Interactive process

“Interactive Process”

Employer should engage in an interactive process with the individual asking for the accommodation.

May involve determining (1) whether the requester has a disability, (2) whether requested accommodation is medically needed, and/or (3) what accommodations are possible.

Implications of “good faith” provision in 42 U.S.C. Section 1981a


After the adaaa reasonable accommodation update

  • Employer has discretion to choose among equally effective accommodations where there is more than one possibility.

  • Accommodation does not require lowering performance or production standards (but pro-rate production standards to adjust for time off granted due to disability).


Interactive process1

Interactive Process

Determine the limitations at issue caused by the employee’s medical condition, what accommodation the employee needs for those limitations, and determine if it can be provided without undue hardship.

Communicate, exchange information, search for solutions, consult resources as needed

www.askjan.org


After the adaaa reasonable accommodation update

  • Employer cannot deny accommodation because co-workers may be resentful. Carter v. Pathfinder Energy, 662 F.3d 1134 (10th Cir. 2011).

  • Sometimes reasonable accommodation may require providing a change that the employer denies to other employees who request for non-medical reasons. Ekstrand v. School Dist. Of Somerset, 2012 WL 2382313 (7th Cir. June 26, 2012).

  • Special rule for seniority systems: US Airways, Inc. v. Barnett (2002)


Keys to the interactive process

Keys to the Interactive Process

  • If requestor only knows the problem, not the solution, employer must search for possible accommodations

  • If requestor specifies particular accommodation but it is one that legally need not be provided (e.g. request to lower production standards), employer must offer an alternative accommodation if one exists that would not pose an undue hardship -- search for and consider alternative accommodations


Recent case law employer failures in the interactive process

Recent Case Law – Employer Failures in the Interactive Process

  • Flatly turning down requested accommodation and failing to offer available alternative. Colwell v. Rite Aid Corp., 602 F.3d 495 (3d Cir. 2010)

  • Ignoring request because employer believes employee does not have a disability. Zombeck v. Friendship Ridge, 2011 WL 666200 (W.D. Pa. Feb. 14, 2011).


Reassignment

Reassignment

Accommodation of last resort

Position must be vacant

Must be equal in terms of pay, status, etc., or as close as possible

Is not limited geographically

Employee must be qualified for the new position, but does not have to be best qualified


Reassignment continued

Reassignment (continued)

Vacant means that the position is available or will become available within a reasonable time

Does not have to be a promotion

Employer does not have to bump another employee to create a vacancy

Reassignment that would violate seniority system generally is not reasonable

Employer does not have to pay cost of relocation, unless it does so for other employees who transfer voluntarily


Confidentiality of medical information

Confidentiality of Medical Information

Employers must keep medical Information about applicants and employees confidential, including fact that someone has requested or is receiving a reasonable accommodation.

Limited Exceptions:

- information may be disclosed to supervisors and managers for necessary work restrictions or reasonable accommodations

- information may be disclosed to individuals involved in making decisions about reasonable accommodations

where necessary for emergency treatment

to officials investigating compliance with the ADA

for workers’ compensation and insurance purposes


Going beyond legal obligations

Going Beyond Legal Obligations

Many employers may take actions that are not required as reasonable accommodations

Employer will not be deemed to have regarded an individual as disabled just because it exceeded its legal obligations

Employer may inform an employee that it is taking an action beyond what the law requires

But beware of disparate treatment


Going beyond legal obligations continued

Going Beyond Legal Obligations (continued)

Examples of situations in which an employer may want to exceed its obligations include:

Accommodating a condition that is not substantially limiting

Providing a temporary measure while considering a request for reasonable accommodation


Accommodation tips

Accommodation Tips

Respond to requests promptly, as undue delay may constitute a denial of accommodation

Engage in good faith in the interactive process

Construe “disability” broadly

Individualized assessment: Do not assume that individuals with the same disability have the same limitations or need the same accommodation

Gather information about possible accommodations

If denying any reasonable accommodation, clearly communicate the reasons


Resources

Resources

EEOC

www.eeoc.gov

Job Accommodation Network (JAN)

www.askjan.org


Contact information

Contact Information

Jeanne Goldberg

Senior Attorney Advisor

Office of Legal Counsel

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

[email protected]

202-663-4693


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