Blog by Shawe Rosenthal LLP – Fiona W. Ong
A recent case is a good reminder to employers that, while the Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to provide disabled employees with reasonable accommodations to enable them to perform their essential job functions or enjoy the privileges and benefits of employment, the choice of accommodation is the employer’s – not the employee’s.
In Jennings v. Towers Watson, the newly-hired employee sustained an ankle injury that prevented her from climbing the stairs to the second-floor, where her training was taking place. Although she requested that a trainer come to the first floor to continue her training, the employer delayed her training until she had recovered. After she was later fired, she sued, alleging, among other things, a failure to accommodate under the ADA.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, however, rejected her claim. As it stated, “The ADA provides a right to reasonable accommodation, not to the employee’s preferred accommodation.” In this case, the delay in training was deemed akin to leave, and leave – whether paid or not – can be a reasonable accommodation. Because the accommodation was effective, the employer had the right to select it regardless of the employee’s preference.