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Employees Should Ask
“D.D.” was a project engineer for Carlisle Foodservice Products in Oklahoma.

D.D.had a disability. He sometimes used his sick leave to attend doctor appointments and physical therapy, and he walked with a cane at work. According to D.D., the pain from his conditions and the medications he took made him extremely tired. He acknowledged that this mental fatigue prevented him from timely completing his work assignments.

After a few written and oral warnings over the course of several months, the company terminated D.D. for being behind on his assignments. D.D., however, believed that he could have performed successfully if only the company had provided him a reasonable accommodation, such as a laptop computer to work at home or a modified schedule. So, he sued Carlisle for failing to accommodate him under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The Court ruled against the engineer. D.D.'s “primary argument is that Carlisle's awareness of his disability was sufficient to place Carlisle on notice that he needed an accommodation, thereby triggering Carlisle's duty under the ADA to engage in the interactive process," the Court observed.

"This argument is unavailing," the Court ruled. "More is required to trigger an employer's duty to engage in the interactive process than mere awareness that the employee is disabled; specifically, the employee must make an adequate request for a reasonable accommodation for the disability."

"Certainly, an employer may inquire whether an employee needs an accommodation before an employee has made an adequate request, but an employer is under no legal obligation to do so," the Court explained. "In other words, it is the request for an accommodation for an employee's disability that triggers an employer's duty to engage in the interactive process, not an awareness of a disability that may (or may not) necessitate an accommodation."

"[P]oor work performance has many causes," the Court noted. It can be hard for an employer to know whether an employee's difficulties in performing his or her job are caused by a disability or some other factor, and the ADA does not require clairvoyance."

"In sum, it was [D.D.'s] obligation to put Carlisle on notice that his disability was affecting his performance and, more to the point, that he desired an accommodation for his disability," the Court concluded. "Yet, the record is clear that [he] failed to provide Carlisle with legally adequate notice of his desire for an accommodation. As a consequence, Carlisle had no legal duty to attempt to provide [D.D.] a reasonable accommodation." [D.D. v. Carlisle Foodservice Products Inc. (10th Cir. 2013) no. 12-6178]

For information on this topic, request:
5730 Employer Must Accommodate Disabled Persons
9800 Accommodation Policy
9801 Request for Disability Accommodation

Accommodating Workers With Disabilities (US)

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