A lab worker with health problems as a result of her work with a solvent submitted the following request for an accommodation: “Avoid any type of work where she would have exposure to organic solvents. Transfer to another line of work. Avoidance of irritants.”

The employer denied the request but offered the plaintiff a full face respirator that would have protected her from exposure to solvents.  She wore the respirator six or seven times then stopped because it led to her having claustrophobia and panic attacks. The employer then offered the employee a partial face respirator but the plaintiff refused to even give it a try. As her note indicated, she sought a transfer to another line of work. 

In affirming summary judgment for the employer, the Court held that while the offer of a full-face respirator was not a reasonable accommodation because of its effects on the plaintiff, the offer of a partial face respirator was. Due to the plaintiff’s refusal to try the partial face respirator, she could not perform the essential functions of her position and was not a qualified individual with a disability.  Yovtcheva v. City of Philadelphia (3rd Cir. May 7, 2013).

When an employee requests a job transfer as an accommodation, an employer should determine first if there is an accommodation that allows the employee to remain in his or her regular job. If there is, there is no need to get to the transfer, i.e., "accommodation of last resort,” analysis. As the Yovtcheva case illustrates, this is so even if the employee rejects the accommodation for his or her regular job.