A recent case makes this seemingly obvious point clear. It’s good news for employers, who would do well to copy the employer’s actions here. In EEOC v. Kohl’s Dept Stores, decided just last month, a diabetic employee sought to have her shift changed as an accommodation under the ADA. Pamela Manning was a sales associate with a steady day shift. Due to changing business needs, her hours were changed so that sometimes she worked days and sometimes she worked evenings. She came to her supervisor and stated the new schedule was exacerbating her diabetes. Thus, she sought to be returned to her previous days-only shifts. The supervisor took the issue up with the store manager, who reached out to HR for input as well. Upon HR’s advice, the store manager and Ms. Manning’s supervisor met with her to discuss the accommodation. While they had decided they could not put her back to an only day shift schedule, they were planning on ensuring she did not work the so-called swing shift (an evening shift immediately followed by a day shift), as this seemed to be the main problem in terms of her diabetes.
At the onset of the meeting, the manager and supervisor informed Ms. Manning they could not give her a day-only shift. They stated they were happy to discuss alternative accommodations. But Ms. Manning cut the meeting short, stating she had no choice but to quit. She placed her keys on the desk and walked out. Her supervisor followed her and asked her to reconsider, but Ms. Manning refused. Thereafter, Kohl’s reached out to Ms. Manning and tried to reopen the discussion. Ms. Manning would have none of it. Thus, Kohl’s considered her to have resigned.
When the EEOC subsequently took up Ms. Manning’s case and accused Kohl’s of violating the ADA by refusing Ms. Manning’s requested accommodation, the court had no problem kicking the case out, holding that Ms. Manning’s refusal to participate in the interactive process doomed her claim. Seems like an easy call, right? Lucky for the employer, the appellate court thought so and affirmed the dismissal.
Employer takeaways from the case:
- Get HR involved in requests for accommodations
- Even if you can’t provide the requested accommodation, try to keep the “interactive process” going by having a dialogue and trying to find other options.
- Even if the employee acts unreasonably, keep trying to engage him or her in the dialogue before calling it quits.
- Train your supervisors so they can spot these issues and handle them appropriately.