Workplace supports afford employees the opportunity to do the best they can in the job they were hired to do. And often, this support is provided for any part of that job. When companies promote such a corporate culture, everyone benefits. Providing a workplace support is similar to providing “reasonable accommodation” for employees with disabilities. However, reasonable accommodation is only required to help the employee with a disability perform the essential job functions. Under the ADA, a reasonable accommodation may include the elimination or modification of a non-essential job duty, or the transfer of a non-essential job duty to another employee.
Is mopping the floors really an essential job function of a sales manager? A sales manager with permanent back and neck impairments was required to perform certain cleaning tasks, including mopping floors that violated his medical restrictions. EEOC determined this to be a non-essential function of a sales manager position that could have been reassigned to other employees. But despite documentation, store management refused to reassign this duty and required the sales manager to mop, leading to further injury and necessitating a medical leave. EEOC’s lawsuit against AutoZone returned a verdict of $600,000 and an additional claim for $115,000 in back pay will be decided at a later date. This particular situation sends an important message. Employers should take requests for accommodations seriously, and make every reasonable effort to enable qualified individuals with disabilities to do their jobs and earn a living. Although damages are capped at $300,000 for a claim under the ADA, the jury’s award may be reduced during subsequent proceedings.
This information should not be construed as “legal advice” for a particular set of facts or circumstances. It is intended only to be a practical guide for participants familiar with this subject. Users should seek appropriate legal advice tailored to address their specific situation.