An employee who refuses to try a reasonable accommodation that the employer offers for her disability loses her ability to claim a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the United States Court of Appeal for the Third Circuit ruled recently.
In Yovtcheva v. City of Philadelphia Water Department, plaintiff Silvia Yovtcheva, a chemist, claimed she was suffering health problems that were caused by exposure to a particular chemical with which she had to work. The Water Department offered her a partial-face respirator (which expert testimony later established would have addressed her health problems), but she refused to try it.
As a result of her refusal to try the respirator, which the Third Circuit found was a reasonable accommodation, the court determined that she was not a qualified individual with a disability and could not maintain a claim for disability discrimination against the defendant.
This decision reinforces the fact that the ADA is a two-way street. Both the employer and the employee must engage in the interactive process to identify accommodations for any disability. Once a disability is established, neither side can back out of the process and expect to prevail.
Michael Homans is a Labor & Employment attorney and founding partner of HomansPeck LLC. For more employment law updates, including news and links to important information pertaining to legal developments that may affect your business, subscribe to Michael’s blog, or follow him on Twitter @EmployLawUpdate.