Federal Appellate Court Finds Employer Provided Reasonable Accommodation To Disabled Employee, Even Though It Did Not Provide The Favored Accommodation


A federal appellate court upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit alleging that a Dairy Queen franchisee failed to reasonably accommodate a blind employee under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In Bunn v. Khoury Enterprises, Inc., a legally blind Dairy Queen employee alleged that his employer failed to engage in the interactive process by assigning him to work a single station serving meals and cleaning up the dining area without considering his preferred accommodation of rotating stations like other employees.  In upholding the dismissal of the lawsuit, the court found that Dairy Queen provided a reasonable accommodation by modifying its practice of rotating employees to different stations since the employee’s disability prevented him from performing the duties at the other stations without significant accommodations.  Instead, Dairy Queen assigned the employee to work the same station each shift, which enabled the employee to perform the essential functions of his job.  As a result, the court held that Dairy Queen met its obligations under the ADA to provide a reasonable accommodation, even if it was not the accommodation preferred by the employee and even if Dairy Queen did not engage him in a discussion regarding his preferred accommodations. Although this decision provides legal support for not implementing an employee’s preferred accommodation, employers should assess the employee relations and practical considerations with refusing an employee’s preferred accommodation, especially if the employee’s preferred accommodation does not impose a significant cost or burden upon operations.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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