Employers often get confused when it comes to “light duty” work comp assignments and ADA accommodation requirements. An accommodation is a “modification or adjustment to the workplace” necessary to enable an employee to complete the essential job functions of their position. An employee may request an assignment from a position that they can’t manage to one that they can handle as a temporary accommodation. A light duty position may be a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. However, an employer is not required to create a new position by making a temporary position permanent. As a result, once an employer learns that an employee’s disability is permanent, they do not have to continue to offer a light duty position as an ADA accommodation.
Remember, the accommodation process is a two-way dialogue. Although an employee must identify an accommodation that might be available, they’re not expected to identify all possible accommodations because they don’t have at their disposal the extensive information that employers have concerning possible alternative positions, or possible accommodation. So, an employer can’t just sit back and wait for the employee to have all the answers; the employer has to make an affirmative effort to find reasonable accommodations as well. In a sense, there can be no “hiding the ball,” but rather an investigation or inquiry must be made.
Based on recent changes to the ADA, the EEOC has issued revisions to EEOC Enforcement Guidance: Workers’ Compensation and the ADA.