In prior posts here and here, I’ve discussed an important new Connecticut Supreme Court case released this week, Curry v. Allan S. Goodman, Inc. and the effect it has on providing disabled employees with "reasonable accommodation".
However, the Supreme Court’s decision goes beyond that. The Court also find that state law imposes a duty on employers to engage in an "interactive process" — a term of art found in the Americans with Disabilities Act regulations.
What does it mean? According to the Connecticut Supreme Court, state law now requires:
that the employer and the employee engage in an ‘‘informal, interactive process with the qualified individual with a disability in need of the accommodation . . . [to] identify the precise limitations resulting from the disability and potential reasonable accommodations that could overcome those limitations. In this effort, the employee must come forward with some suggestion of accommodation, and the employer must make a good faith effort to participate in that discussion.
The Supreme Court found in Curry that the employer — although it provided some initial temporary accommodations — did not followup further on such issues. For this reason, the court said that the failure to engage in the interactive process could be "some" evidence of discrimination — enough to defeat summary judgment.
So, for employers in Connecticut — now of all sizes — the Curry decision makes plain that once an employee raises an issue regarding a disability and suggests, even informally, for assistance about it, the employer has a duty to delve deeper into the issue. Just saying "no" may not be good enough.
The EEOC has provided some guidance on this issue available here. The Department of Labor also provides the Job Accommodation Network with additional support information available here.