Employee Must Participate in Interactive Reasonable Accommodation Process


Reiterating perhaps an obvious point, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit rejected an employee’s failure to accommodate claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act in part because of the employee’s lack of participation in the reasonable accommodations process.

In McNeil v. Union Pacific Railroad Co., the employee was a railroad dispatcher, an essential function of which was the ability to work overtime. Because of a medical condition, she was temporarily excused from overtime work. The employee’s doctor subsequently provided a note imposing an indefinite restriction on overtime work, which the railroad deemed to be unreasonable. The employee contended that her restriction was only temporary, and the railroad instructed her to provide an updated doctor’s note. When she failed to do so, she was terminated.

The Eighth Circuit found that the employee’s failure to provide the requested medical information doomed her claim, as she was responsible for stalling the interactive process. She had also declined the railroad’s offer to help her develop a plan for her “vocational future.” This case highlights the fact that the interactive process requires interaction from both the employer and the employee.