Can an employer ask an employee with an intellectual disability if she needs an accommodation?


Penny, an employee in your flower shop who has an intellectual disability, is in charge of stocking the containers in the refrigerators with flowers as they arrive from the suppliers. Each type of flower has a designated container, and each container has a specific location in the refrigerator. However, Penny often misplaces the flowers and containers. You know about her disability, suspect that her performance problem is a result of the disability, and know she is unable to ask for a reasonable accommodation because of her intellectual disability. Can you ask Penny if she needs an accommodation, even though she has not requested one?


Yes. An employer has a legal obligation to initiate a discussion about the need for a reasonable accommodation and to provide an accommodation if one is available if the employer:

      1. knows that the employee has a disability;
      2. knows, or has reason to know, that the employee is experiencing workplace problems because of the disability; and
      3. knows, or has reason to know, that the disability prevents the employee from requesting and accommodation.

In this instance, you should ask Penny about the misplaced items and ask if it would be helpful to label the containers and refrigerator shelves. If she replies that it would, as a reasonable accommodation, you should label the containers and refrigerator shelves with the appropriate flower name or picture.

Source: EEOC’s “Revised Questions and Answers about Persons with Intellectual Disabilities and the Americans with Disabilities Act,” reported in Employment Practices Guide, ¶5374;

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