Asking About Easier jobs Triggers Employer’s duty to Participate in Interactive Process

An employee of a printing and copying company was diagnosed with stage four cancer, and was concerned that she would be unable to perform the physical aspects of her job. After her diagnosis, she spoke with her supervisor, stated that she wanted to keep working and asked whether there were any other easier jobs available. The supervisor stated that he did not know of any, nor did he direct her to human resources. Twenty minutes after the call with her supervisor, the employee resigned. She subsequently filed a failure to accommodate claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("DA). In rejecting the employer's motion for summary judgment, the court held that the employer's obligation to participate in the interactive process begins as soon as it is placed on notice of a disability. Ultimately, the court held that the ADA obligated the employer to push the process forward once the employee informed it of her diagnosis and the fact that she wanted to keep working. This case demonstrates the importance of participating in, and clearly documenting the steps taken during, the interactive process. Once employers learn of an employee's disability, steps must be taken to ensure that interactive process begins and is effective.

For more information read Suvada v. Gordon Flesch Co., Inc., No. 11 C 07892 (N.D. Ill. Sep. 13, 2013).

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