Why can't some employers understand the interactive process and make accommodations that are simple and easy to make? I wish I knew the answer. After reading the facts of a lawsuit the EEOC just filed against Walmart, I know that Wal-Mart doesn't know the answer.
The EEOC claims that Walmart violated the ADA by refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation to a deli associate suffering from Crohn's disease.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit (as described in its news release), the employee in question requested both intermittent leave or excused disability-related absences, and further requested a transfer to a position closer to a bathroom (which Walmart denied). Walmart excused a few of those absences, but refused to excuse others, including several accompanied by doctor's notes for medical appointments and a hospitalization. Walmart finally fired the employee for unexcused absences, which the EEOC claims were supported by doctor's notes.
An employer cannot hold disability-related medical appointments or hospitalizations against an employee, nor can it terminate said employee for disability-related absences. As for the transfer, the lawsuit is unclear as to whether Walmart had an open position closer to the bathroom in which to move this employee. While a transfer to an open position is an ADA reasonable accommodation, the statute does not obligate an employer to create a position as an accommodation. Nevertheless, a move to a position closer to the bathroom does not appear to be an unreasonable request.
"The Americans with Disabilities Act was created to protect employees like this deli associate," says EEOC regional attorney Melinda C. Dugas. "Here you have a long-term employee who—at the onset of a debilitating health condition—needs some flexibility from her employer while she seeks medical treatment and works toward managing the condition." Ms. Dugas is not wrong.