The Enoch Pratt Public Library in Baltimore settled a disability discrimination suit brought by an employee whose difficulty in walking was ignored by the library. She was not allowed to use a handicapped parking space, nor given access by a back door. Her parking space a block away was very difficult for her to manage. The employee has decided to retire on March 1, but in the meantime has been granted a parking space and access from the lot to the library.
Employers often have difficulty offering accommodations, though it’s unclear to me why that should be so. In this case, the employee not only asked for what she wanted, she evidently was visibly disabled. Yet nothing was done for years. That supported the settlement, but it looks as though the library lost an employee over it.
Employers have a harder time when a disability is not readily apparent. Ever wondered about someone who uses a handicapped space, and appears not to need it? The person may have a congestive heart condition, recent surgery on a knee, something else you can’t see. Employers, too, can make judgments that run afoul of the law. An employer is supposed to engage in an interactive process with the employee to explore what the employee might need to be able to perform the essential functions of the job. If the employee cannot do the job despite reasonable accommodations, then there is no discrimination, but an effort has to be made to try to make it work.