Unlike most of the other employment discrimination laws, the ADAA (and its state counterparts) requires what some might consider preferential treatment for covered employees. While many employers find this concept counterintuitive, a 2010 case (that I blogged about here) makes it clear. The plaintiff in Colwell v. Rite Aid Corp. asked for a shift change as a reasonable accommodation. The employer denied the request, claiming the change would be unfair to other employees. Too bad, said the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in reversing a grant of summary judgment on the ADA failure to accommodate claim.
So what should an employer do when faced with a cry of “it’s not fair”? First, remember to respect the privacy of the individual. Not everyone needs to know why Susie needs an accommodation. Second, make sure managers understand their obligations, so they can politely tell the inquirers that it’s none of their business. Finally, keep your eye on the reasonable accommodations ball – the EEOC and the courts are doing just that.