Is a new supervisor a reasonable accommodation for a mental health disability?
Question: An employee with a behavioral/mental health disability requested a new supervisor as a reasonable accommodation, saying they no longer get along as the motivation for the request. Is this a reasonable accommodation?
Answer: It might not be, but you need to go through the process to make a determination. After an employee makes a request for accommodation, the employer and the employee share information in an “interactive process” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). While the employee may not be granted the exact accommodation requested, the focus remains on what limitation or issue the employee is experiencing at work as a result of the disability. Also explored in these meetings are what accommodations might be put into place to address the specified limitations. If the employer has an alternative suggestion that will meet those needs, but is a better fit for the business, that alternative could be a reasonable accommodation.
What is considered reasonable can also depend on the facts. Generally, a request for a new position--or to restructure a reporting relationship--is not considered reasonable unless these types of changes are made by the employer in other circumstances. Alternatives like extending leave, developing a transition plan, telecommuting, or changing the way the employee is supervised might be required as a reasonable accommodation to help the employee work with the supervisor.
In extreme cases, where a care provider determines there can be no contact between the employee and the supervisor (or a co-worker) and the work cannot be accomplished without that contact, the employee may not be eligible for an accommodation in that position. As a final step, you should consider whether there are other open positions for which the employee is qualified; reassignment to a different job might be a solution.
Your Vigilant employment attorney can help you work through this process, or other employment law concerns. For more information, see our Legal Guides, “ADA: Reasonable Accommodation Quick Reference” and “ADA: Job Reassignment.”