- An employer’s refusal to provide a worker with her preferred disability accommodation was not evidence that it failed to act in good faith, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled (Keyhani v. Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, No. 19-2806 (3rd Cir., May 1, 2020)).
- Tanya Keyhani worked for the University of Pennsylvania's facilities and real estate department. After developing impairments, she requested permission to work from home two days per week; the employer denied her request but offered her a three-day workweek. After several months under that arrangement, the employer informed her that her reduced workload was posing an undue hardship on the business. She eventually returned to a full, on-site schedule with workspace modifications.
- Keyhani then sued, alleging the employer failed to act in good faith with respect to its accommodation obligations. A federal district court granted summary judgment for the employer and she appealed. On appeal, the 3rd Circuit upheld the lower court's ruling, stating that "[o]ther than her request to work from home two days each week, defendant provided Keyhani with every accommodation she requested." The employee's "preference for one of the two alternative accommodations provided by her doctors is not sufficient to establish that defendant failed to act in good faith under these circumstances."
The ADA requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities unless the employer would suffer an undue hardship as a result. However, as several courts have concluded, employers are not obligated to grant the reasonable accommodation the employee prefers. Employers need only provide an accommodation that allows an employee with a disability to do his or her job.
Last year, for example, the 2nd Circuit ruled that a hospital employee who was deaf was not entitled to the sign language interpreter and videophone that she requested, noting that "employers are not required to provide an accommodation that the employee prefers — all that is required is that the employer provide an effective accommodation."
Court have extended the same stance to religious accommodations required by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The 10th Circuit, for example, held that an employee had received a reasonable accommodation when his employer allowed him to skip weekend work altogether after he asked that his mandatory overtime be switched from Saturday to Sunday to accommodate his religion. The employee was unhappy with the loss of wages, but the court determined that the employer’s accommodation was reasonable.
Of course, once an employee has requested an accommodation, employers will want to engage in the interactive process to identify possible accommodations. While a failure to engage in that process isn't a per se violation of federal law, such a failure can serve as evidence of discrimination, experts have said. HR can train managers to identify requests that may trigger the employer's ADA responsibilities and to escalate them as appropriate.