The recent case of Hamedl v. Verizon Commc’ns, Inc. affirms this principle of the law of reasonable accommodations under the ADA. Hamedl, an employee who suffered from back pain, asked to work the night shift, from midnight until 8 a.m. He claimed this shift would afford him a shorter commute time, as he would not be sitting in traffic, which aggravated his back. The night shift was a coveted slot, as workers were paid a premium for their time. Workers were assigned to shifts based on their seniority; Hamedl’s seniority did not afford him the night shift. Rather than override its seniority rules, the employer kept Hamedl on the 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift, but let him come in (and leave) two hours early, at 6 a.m., when the traffic would be minimal.
According to the court in the subsequent lawsuit, the employer did its duty under ADA in providing this accommodation. The fact that Hamedl asked for something else did not change this fact.
Takeaway: In assessing requests for reasonable accommodations, employers do not have to ignore their own operational rules and business needs. They simply have to engage in the interactive process and work to find an accommodation that addresses the employee’s problem.