As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, employers can expect requests for accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to rise as well. Recently, the 4th Circuit issued an opinion that highlights the importance of engaging in an interactive process with disabled employees and sheds light on what is and is not “reasonable” under the ADA.
In Elledge v. Lowe’s Home Centers, LLC, Elledge sued his employer (Lowe’s) because it allegedly forced him out of his director position, which he claims he could have performed with reasonable accommodations. After a series of surgeries, Elledge was unable to walk for extending periods of time, and Lowe’s agreed to provide him a motor scooter to help him make store visits. However, Elledge refused to take advantage of this accommodation. Instead, Elledge required other employees to drive him to his store visits, and he asked that these arrangements by formalized. Lowe’s declined to formalize these arrangements. As time went on, it became clear that, Elledge could no longer perform the essential functions of his job.
The 4th Circuit held that Lowe’s did, in fact, provide Elledge with a reasonable accommodation when it provided him a motorized scooter. Furthermore, the Court held that it was not reasonable to require Elledge’s co-workers to drive him to his store visits.
Below are some key takeaways from the Court’s holding that employers and employees should consider when handling accommodation request:
- Accommodations under the ADA need not take the precise form requested by the employee. Employees should be open to alternative accommodations, provided they adequately address their disabilities.
- Although employers must provide reasonable accommodation, employers do not need to change a job’s essential functions or split them across multiple employees.
- The ADA does not mandate accommodations that would require other employees to work harder or longer.