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Employment Blog

Must You Accommodate the Bored Worker?

Authored by Dean R. Dietrich
Posted on July 3, 2013
Filed under Employment

I wrote several weeks ago about the changes made to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and the suggestion that caffeine withdrawal was now a disability that required some level of accommodation from an employer. Another change is the recognition of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as a new disability. This diagnosis includes such things as autistic disorder, Asperger's syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive mental disorder.

Individuals with ASD may be over-sensitive to smells, sights and sounds or may experience memory deficits that interfere with a person's ability to complete tasks, remember job duties or recall daily actions. These conditions could result in an employee standing around looking bored but perhaps actually standing around not remembering what next task must be completed.

Employers may now be required to address some of these symptoms by making accommodations for an ASD employee. Employers may have to address an over-sensitivity to smell, sights or sounds by allowing fresh air breaks or adopting a fragrance-free work policy. Employers may have to change lighting in order to address fluorescent light sensitivity or move an employee to a quiet area to address extra-sensitivity to noise. Employers may also have to provide additional training or even provide written instructions to an employee that experiences memory deficiencies as part of this condition.

This disease also can be attributed to individuals who have difficulty interacting with others in the workplace. This may require employers to limit mandatory attendance at company functions or encourage other employees to minimize personal conversations in work areas or use a particular type of communication, such as using text messaging to communicate with an employee with this condition.

This is another example of how employers may be restricted in how they treat their employees and may be required to provide significant accommodations to individuals that are diagnosed with these new disabilities. Employers should be careful when addressing the quirky behavior of a particular employee to avoid accusations of discrimination against a person with Autism Spectrum Disorder.