The phrases “Americans with Disabilities Act” (ADA) and “reasonable accommodation” go hand in hand, but the decision of whether or not an accommodation is legally “reasonable” is not so intuitive.
As the recent case Hannah v. United Parcel Service (UPS) describes, “an accommodation is not reasonable if it does not ‘enable the employee to perform the essential functions of the job.’” This definition is rather broad. In this case, Plaintiff Hannah was a driver working for UPS. Prior to sustaining an injury, Hannah drove a 600-cubic-foot truck. However, after his injury, Hannah requested an accommodation to drive a shorter, 300-400 cubic-foot truck instead. UPS rejected this accommodation request, claiming Hannah’s truck and route were assigned after Hannah bid on the particular route, as provided by a collective bargaining agreement.
The court ultimately agreed with UPS, explaining that “when Hannah sought an accommodation for his injury, part of his burden of demonstrating its reasonableness was to show that it would allow him to perform the essential functions of the position.” Hannah did not meet this burden, because he could no longer complete his assigned route within the allotted 9.5-hour shift because the truck was shorter and therefore could transport fewer packages.
Importantly, the court held that “[Hannah] is not free simply to redefine the job” to meet his burden. Even with his requested accommodation, Hannah would not be able to perform the essential functions of his employment position. Accordingly, such accommodation was not legally reasonable under the ADA.
The line between logically “reasonable” and legally “reasonable” is often blurred. Companies like UPS may rightfully deny an accommodation request and put the employee on indefinite unpaid leave of absence until the employee can return to work if the employee cannot perform the necessary job functions. It’s important for companies and employers to know the ADA’s accommodation standards so they can properly grant or deny accommodation requests. Improperly denying an accommodation request can open the company and/or employer to significant ADA liability.
All companies (and non-profit organizations) subject to the ADA (15 or more employees) must carefully consider any employee request for accommodation and engage in an interactive process with the employee. For additional information on the Americans with Disabilities Act, please review this information on our website.
If you need more guidance or information, contact the employment law attorneys at General Counsel, P.C. today at 703-556-0411, email@example.com, or use this Contact Us Form. Attorneys at General Counsel, PC are specialized in labor and employment law and have experience working with businesses, non-profits, and individuals throughout the DC Metropolitan area and across Virginia, specifically in Fairfax County, Arlington, and Loudoun County.