A plaintiff’s failure to accommodate claim under the ADA may proceed even though the plaintiff did not follow the employer’s accommodation request procedures, according to a Virginia federal district court. Martin v. Yokohama Tire Corporation (W.D.Va. November 12, 2013).

The plaintiff, a diabetic, alleged that his requests for time off for doctors’ appointments and when he was ill were denied. The employer denied that the plaintiff ever requested an accommodation, noting that the employee handbook requires anyone requesting an accommodation to go to Human Resources and the plaintiff admitted he did not go to Human Resources.

The court rejected the employer’s argument, noting that the fact that the employer had unilaterally changed plaintiff’s shift to a weekend shift so he could attend doctor’s appointments was sufficient evidence for a jury to find that the employer knew of and had acknowledged the plaintiff’s need for some accommodation. The court also noted that a jury could find that this unilaterally-imposed accommodation was not effective because there was evidence that it actually made the plaintiff’s condition worse.

This case establishes that an employer cannot rely on an employee’s failure to follow its accommodation request procedures as a reason to deny the accommodation if it knew of the need for an accommodation through other means. Further, although an employer need not grant the employee’s preferred accommodation, unilaterally imposed accommodations may not suffice.