When Melanie Smith began working for ACME Corp. in the spring of 2014, she told the company she had a pre-existing cervical disc problem and asked for a specific chair to allow her to work comfortably, given her physical condition. The company asked for medical verification of the need, which Smith provided on June 16, 2014. Along with the verification, her doctor submitted specific information about the kind of chair she needed.
“As part of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are required to provide accommodations for disabled workers as long as the request is reasonable and Smith’s didn’t impose an undue burden on the employer,” said Jeffrey Freedman, managing attorney, Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys, PLLC. “Even if the employer doesn’t think the request is reasonable, it can’t simply refuse, it must try to find another manner to accommodate the employee — and in this case, the request was certainly within the boundaries of the ADA regulations.”
Over the next year, ACME provided Smith with two chairs, neither of which complied with her doctor’s note. One was broken, the other was too short. By June 9, 2015, Smith’s condition had significantly worsened and she informed ACME she could no longer work. She was experiencing extreme pain in her neck, back and extremities, and numbness and tingling in her arms, hands and fingers due to sitting in the wrong chair at work.
“Prior to quitting her job, Ms. Smith retained our firm to help her document the critical facts to show her conditions were so intolerable no reasonable person could have continued to work,” Freedman said. “She also argued the employer had exacerbated her physical disability by not providing the accommodation she needed.”
The attorney handling the case, Kevin Wicka, sued ACME for lost wages and violations of the ADA arising from discrimination based on Smith’s disability, in addition to submitting a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Through the Federal Court automatic mediation program, Smith and her former employer reached a settlement agreement in the amount of $22,500.
Employers have a responsibility to employ individuals living with disabilities and to make reasonable accommodations for those workers. Anyone who feels their employer has not met those requirements, should contact the Freedman firm at 1-800-343-8537.