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EEOC: Employer Liable for Violating ADA Despite Employee's Failure to Adequately Document Disability or Need for Accommodation Prior to Filing Her Claim

In a case all employers should find troubling, the EEOC recently held that a federal agency-employer discriminated on the basis of disability by denying an employee’s request for accommodation, despite the fact that information the employee provided when making his request and during the time in which the employer and employee engaged in the required interactive process did not show either that the employee was disabled or how the accommodation related to his alleged disability.  In Harden v. Astrue, EEOC DOC 0720080002 (August 12, 2011) the EEOC found that sufficiently detailed medical and other documentation was provided to the employer after the employee filed a charge of discrimination, during  discovery process associated with the charge.  Therefore, the EEOC concluded, the employee was disabled and entitled to reasonable accommodation. 

Huh?  So what’s an employer to do?  From the EEOC’s perspective, the apparent answer is that an employer must continue to engage in the interactive process of accommodation indefinitely and must err on the side of allowing an accommodation.

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Martha Zackin