When an employee requests a reasonable accommodation, the employer is obligated to engage in the “interactive process,” which is a dialogue between employer and employee to try to come up with a reasonable accommodation. What if an employee’s proffered accommodation conflicts with a well-established rule or policy? Well, it depends. Sometimes, an employer must make exceptions to its policies as a reasonable accommodation.
Take the recent EEOC settlement with Ezeflow USA, a pipefitting manufacturer in Pittsburg. Ezeflow had a policy of not granting time off to employees during their probationary period (tip: don’t call it a probationary period, as this sounds like once the employee passes it, he or she has some guarantee of employment; call it an orientation or introductory period instead). Thus, when a relatively new employee sought 6 weeks of leave as an accommodation for his military service-related seizures, the employer denied the request and fired him instead. What should the employer have done? Duh, really considered (and most likely granted) the request.
When it comes to reasonable accommodations, employees are not always entitled to the accommodation of their choice. But they are entitled to consideration and the interactive process. Even if it means deviating from established policies.