The issue seems to occur regularly and a recent call for advice prompts me to address it. A supervisor accommodates an employee’s work limitation caused by a medical impairment and life goes on….until a new manager begins and ends the accommodation.
A federal district court in Illinois addressed a very similar situation In Isbell v. John Crane, Inc. (N.D. IL, March 21, 2014), the plaintiff had been diagnosed with Adult Attention Deficit Disorder and Bipolar Disorder. Her morning medications “did not kick in until several hours after she awoke,” according to the court. Although her regular shift began at 8:30 a.m., plaintiff began reporting to work at 10 a.m. Her supervisor did not object so long as plaintiff completed her projects on time. Plaintiff’s doctor stated in a note that she “would greatly benefit from a flexible work schedule to accommodate her challenge with focus and attention.”
After reporting to work at 10 a.m. for about two and half years, her supervisor, in response to his new supervisor’s “heightened emphasis on attendance,” established uniform work hours for everyone, including the plaintiff. Even with a 30 minute grace period, the plaintiff was reporting late and accruing points under the employer’s attendance policy and was eventually terminated under that policy.
In granting the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on the reasonable accommodation claim, the court stated that “[n]o real reason has been proffered by Crane as to why a new management broom…should be entitled to start by subjecting [plaintiff] to a one-size-fits all timing sweep.” The court noted that the issue was not whether allowing plaintiff to report to work late was a reasonable accommodation but whether “it was reasonable for Crane to withdraw that existing accommodation” and whether continuing that accommodation created an undue hardship for Crane.
This case suggests that the orientation of a new supervisor or manager should include a review of the accommodations being provided in his or her department and that none should be discontinued without considering the ADA implications.