With the adoption of the ADA Amendments Act, much Americans with Disabilities Act litigation is moving from the threshold issue of covered disabilities to whether the employer provided a reasonable accommodation to the plaintiff. A recent case from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals demonstrates that some requests will never be reasonable as a matter of law.
In Thelig v. United Tech Corp., the plaintiff suffered from severe depression and was placed on an unpaid leave of absence. He contacted the employer and stated that he was able to work from home for a period of two months, but could not have any personal contact with anyone at the company during that time period, especially any of his former co-workers, including his two supervisors. The employer denied this request as unreasonable.
The Second Circuit agreed, affirming dismissal of the claim. The court noted that under the ADA, requests to change supervisors are generally not deemed to be reasonable accommodations expected of employers. A request that prohibits any personal contact with anyone at the company was deemed to be unreasonable as a matter of law, without the need to even apply the request to the particular circumstances faced by the plaintiff.
While employers are expected to engage in a vigorous process to identify possible accommodations, the ADA will not require employers to agree to requests that on their face are clearly unworkable and create obvious excessive cost or other issues for employers.