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Accommodation of a disability

Qualified disabled employee wins discrimination claim because the employer ignored his requests for a reasonable accommodation, forcing him to quit.

In a recent decision by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD), the employee successfully sued for disability discrimination after he quit his job of 30 years. The employee’s disabilities included significant knee and back arthritis that were known to the employer. The employer announced a reorganization and unilaterally assigned him to a position he could not physically perform. The employee repeatedly asked his supervisor and human resources personnel to talk about this assignment and possible accommodations that would allow him to remain employed. When the employer failed to respond to his requests, the employee felt he had no choice but to quit.

The MCAD acknowledged that the employer did not violate any law when it eliminated the position. The violation occurred when the employer did not try to work with the employee to find a suitable position for him to perform with a reasonable accommodation. The employer mistakenly thought its legal duty to discuss a reasonable accommodation with qualified disabled ended when it decided to eliminate his job. Since the employer assigned the employee a new job, the employer continued to have a duty to discuss a reasonable accommodation. If the employer was uncertain about the scope of the employee’s impairment, it could have sought clarification from his medical provider.

The MCAD concluded that the employee was constructively discharged from his job. An employer constructively discharges an employee when it fails to engage in the legally required interactive dialogue to determine the feasibility of a reasonable accommodation.

The decision is MCAD v. Engineering Materials Solutions, MCAD Docket No. 05-BEM-01948 (March 14, 2013).

Pamela A. Smith
Law Office of Pamela A. Smith
233 Needham Street, Suite 540
Newton, MA 02464
617-969-2900

pam@pamsmithlaw.com

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