Sometimes the best employees are disabled, and sometimes these employees are the very ones intimidated from asking for accommodation to disability at work. The thinking goes: “I will be rejected, because I have been doing my job thus far. No one will believe that I truly need an accommodation.”
Recently, New Hampshire’s federal appeals court addressed just this thinking, and it held that despite a disabled employee’s ability to perform his or her job without accommodation, an employee nevertheless may be entitled to accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act if the worker needs the accommodation to obtain a “level playing field” as compared to an employee without a disability. See Burnett v. Ocean Properties, Ltd. 987 F.3d 57 (1st Cir. 2021).
The case involved a wheelchair bound, stellar worker. The employee had managed to get into his workplace, navigating the workplace door, even though it was not automatic and even though getting in and out of work was highly physically challenging.
The employer essentially argued that because the disabled employee was able to get in and do his work, albeit with some difficulty, the Americans with Disabilities Act did not require that he be accommodated. The court disagreed, interpreting the law to mandate that employers make all accommodations that are reasonable and that will afford disabled workers access to work equal to that of non-disabled peers. The case importantly expands the accommodation analysis, from beyond just what the individual worker “needs” to an analysis of how he compares to non-disabled peers, in terms of ease of access to work duties.
If you have a question regarding a disability accommodation at work, you need an experienced NH employment lawyer. Contact our office for a consultation at (603) 288-1403 or fill out our online contact form.