Because many employers are not well versed in the Americans with Disabilities Act there is often confusion on whether a request accommodation must be granted. The good news is that a requested accommodation does not have to be granted if it does not actually allow the employee to perform the job. The purpose of an accommodation is to provide a way for the essential function of the work to actually be performed, not avoided.
Case in point
Jonathan Crotty, of the firm Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP, tells of a case he dealt with in his practice. His client “…received a request from a salesperson who suffers from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The employee said that certain customers acted in ways that triggered her symptoms, and she requested an accommodation that would permit her to terminate such sales calls and not deal with such individuals in the future.” His client was at a loss for what to do because they didn’t think they could quantify the undue hardship that such an accommodation would cause. Crotty said they were focusing, as do many employers, on the wrong question.
Is it even covered by the ADA?
Crotty said that employers should ask if the requested accommodation even falls under the definition of an ADA accommodation. Crotty said:
Remember that in order to be covered under the ADA, the request must be something that permits the employee to perform the essential functions of the job. Even if the requested changes are feasible, if the employee cannot perform those essential functions, the request may be declined without the need to demonstrate undue hardship.
Although Crotty does not say it if the employee is unable to perform the essential functions of the job they can be terminated. After all, the purpose of having an employee in any position is for them to be able to perform the essential work of that job. If they cannot do that after you have determined if an accommodation can help in that process then they are not eligible for that job.
Naturally, you do not take these actions until you have fulfilled the requirements of the ADAAA by participating in and documenting, an interactive discussion with the employee about their requested accommodation. If their requested accommodation is to just avoid doing the necessary work completely then they are not fulfilling their part of being able to perform the essential functions of the job and that ends the discussion.