Vigilant Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law, HR, safety & workers' comp

Jul 20, 2015

Disability discrimination found when employer avoids interactive process

DisabilityTermination & Resignation 

One employee who was fired after a determination of a permanent partial disability in her workers’ compensation claim ended up winning a disability discrimination lawsuit. A federal district court ruled the employer could not simply rely on the workers’ compensation award of permanent partial disability in concluding the employee was unable to perform the essential functions of her job as a shipping clerk.

The employee provided the company with a note from her doctor which described her work-related restrictions. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), this triggered the employer’s duty to engage in the “interactive process” with the employee to explore whether a reasonable accommodation might allow her to perform the essential duties of her job. At trial, the employee presented evidence that there were accommodations which would have allowed her to perform her job, but the employer did not consider the possible accommodations before firing her (Dunlap v. Liberty Natural Products, D Or, April 2015.

Tips: Once you are made aware of an alleged disability that restricts an employee’s ability to work, you should engage in the ADA interactive process.

The interactive process requires you to analyze the essential functions of the job and explore any possible accommodations with the employee. You are only required to consider “reasonable” accommodations. This means that an employee will not necessarily be entitled to his or her preferred accommodation, especially if it creates an undue hardship on the business.

Review our additional blogs regarding disability in the workplace for more tips on how to remain compliant with the ADA. Also review our Legal Guide, “ADA: Reasonable Accommodation and the Interactive Process” (1078), for more in-depth information.

For specific questions about an individual case, please contact your Vigilant employment attorney.

This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult legal counsel.