Today we want to bring to your attention the case of Amour v. Lawrence & Memorial Corp. out of Connecticut. Plaintiff claims she was forced to quit her job at a hospital there. How? Simply put, her coworkers were bullies. More expansively put, plaintiff has hypertension and her coworkers were bullies. But the real inquiry here is why this is important. Long story short, it’s because all workplace accommodations should be taken seriously.
Plaintiff’s coworkers were aggressive at work, prone to angry outbursts and yelling, which didn’t sit well with her hypertension. In fact, her coworkers exacerbated her tension to a point that the four medications she took to control her blood pressure weren’t working anymore. At one point her blood pressure reached a high of 209/88 and she had to seek emergency care! Her doctor recommended she return to work only if she would be assigned an alternate position or shift, with a different supervisor, and be treated more respectfully.
The hospital, you may have guessed, did not accommodate her or even give serious consideration to her requests. Instead, the hospital investigated the matter and decided the best course of action was to tell her coworkers to not retaliate against her for reporting her complaints. The hospital, though, declined to accommodate her request for a new assignment or a new schedule (to allow for a new supervisor) because they were worried that it would spark other employees to express their dissatisfaction with their schedules.
The District Judge ruled that a question of fact appropriate for trial existed because a reasonable jury could conclude that plaintiff’s request for a shift change was a reasonable one and that the defendant’s denial of that request could violate the ADA. The court added that even if her requests were unreasonable, the bottom line is that the employer is responsible to at least engage the employee in order to “ferret out the potentially unreasonable aspects of plaintiff’s demands.”
The court ruled against Defendant’s motion for summary judgment and it was all because they didn’t want employees to ask for schedule changes. Employers should take all requests for workplace accommodations seriously. Even if these accommodation requests are unreasonable, at least talk the employee about it and offer reasonable alternatives if possible.