One of the hallmarks of the Americans with Disabilities Act is that employers are required to have a dialogue—known as the “interactive process”—with an employee who requests or appears to be in need of an accommodation. A recent case, Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination v. Tufts Medical Center, Docket No. 10-BEM-01133 (Dec. 18, 2019), provides some guidance for how an employer can fulfill its obligation to determine whether an employee’s disability can be accommodated.
In 2006, after about four years of working as an inpatient nurse at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, the Complainant was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and lung disease. The following year, she was excused from overtime responsibilities as an accommodation, but still worked without other restrictions. In the spring of 2009, Complainant took medical leaves and by the summer, had exhausted her job protection; in order to return to the nursing pool at Tufts Medical Center, Complainant was required to apply for vacant jobs. By October of 2009, she was cleared to return to work with no restrictions.