There is a wide range of things that could affect the normal working environment in a public or government workplace. Disability and its underlying personal & interpersonal, and physical & emotional issues serve as some of the best examples. The local or state government has provided public and government workers the necessary protections so that their rights may not be compromised should they receive maltreatments and encounter issues of prejudice in their workplace because of their disability.
This is a case of David Milligan, the acting chief of human resources of a state university-owned library. David Milligan currently faces a problematic situation wherein he has to deal with the requests, demands and possible accommodations that he can provide for one of his librarians who appears to have been diagnosed with a psychological Manic-depressive disorder. The name of the librarian is Jeff Keltner. Keltner has been employed by the library for quite a number of years already and his performance in the workplace in terms of attendance and dedication seems flawless. He is one of the most experienced librarians in the references department and he seemed to be performing his duties well before he was diagnosed with a Manic-depressive disorder.
Things appeared to have changed ever since Keltner has been diagnosed with Manic-depressive disorder, a psychological condition characterized by alternating periods of mania and depression, evidenced by an individual’s emotions and behavior. At first, Keltner’s case seemed to be an easy and simple one for Milligan to handle. But later on, things became more complicated. More and more complaints from other library employees and library users are being filed against Keltner.
Is Milligan’s offer of reassignment a reasonable accommodation of Keltner’s Disability? If Keltner accepts, how will it affect his career?
One thing that Mr. Milligan could first consider is whether the law permits the reassignment of an employee under certain conditions. As soon as he can confirm that the law does permit such action, he could then proceed to the next step, which requires him to decide whether to reassign Keltner to another department or not. From the context of the case, it seems fairly reasonable for Milligan to consider reassigning Keltner to another department—the cataloguing department, as one of his first options for accommodation.
One of the factors that Milligan should consider here aside from the possible legal implications is the effect of Keltner’s fast-changing attitude towards the library users and his coworkers. Since his work performance is already affecting the integrity of the library’s services, it is only reasonable and just for Milligan to consider and execute such action.
Should the reassignment commence, Keltner’s performance would really be affected because firstly, he is not trained to do the tasks of a member of a cataloguing department.
Secondly, he does not have the expertise and even the background to their work. Lastly and most importantly, he does not seem to be willing to agree to be reassigned to the cataloguing department based on his actions and response. He said that he loves to deal with library patrons and he love doing his job at the references department. He will certainly need more time and effort before he can finally adjust to the work demands and working environment in the cataloguing department.
Keltner’s current condition does not obviously look good. Surely he is trying his best to cope up with the situation, find the right treatment for his condition, all without losing his job as a librarian or be transferred to another department. According to the reports from other librarian, he does not accommodate well with his condition and the reports from his colleagues and the library-users are the best evidences for that.
Keltner’s reassignment into the cataloguing department is a really tough decision for Milligan to make. He has to consider that decision’s possible effects to Keltner’s career. First, Keltner was not properly trained to handle the demanding tasks of a librarian. He simply is not built for that job because he enjoys dealing with people as well. It’s possible that his job performance as a cataloguing librarian would be totally different or poorer from his job performance when he was working as a reference librarian.
Does Keltner have a responsibility to the university to accept reassignment, considering his occasional inability to do his job effectively?
Keltner may or may not accept the reassignment offer unless of course, there is an agreement that binds and holds him responsible to do so. Such cases are usually resolved through informal bilateral discussions between the employee concerned and the human resource management officer in charge (Watson, 1993). Issues like this are often resolved through such discussions. There are two perspectives that may come into play in Keltner’s situation. Legally, we can say that he does not have the responsibility to accept the reassignment. It is his prerogative to accept or not to accept the reassignment offer. However, viewed from an ethical perspective, it could be stated that he carries the responsibility to accept reassignment since the integrity of the library’s services and his coworkers are already being compromised due to his condition.
Does Keltner have recourse under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to prevent Milligan from reassigning him to a job that he is reluctant to perform and isn’t particularly qualified for?
There are several employment acts and ordinances that may be able to back Keltner’s claims should he decide to reject the human resource manager’s offer during their bilateral agreements. It was stated under the Americans with disabilities act that private and public employers may not reject or discriminate qualified individuals based on their current conditions as long as they are capable and their current condition (disability) does not impede the normal performance required for a particular position. One has to take note of the “qualified individuals” part. For an individual to be covered with the protection of the Americans with Disabilities Act, he must be able to prove medically and legally that he is disabled or has close relationship with someone who has a disability (U.S. Department of Justice, 2009). Meaning, Keltner has to be able to prove that he is indeed disabled and that his current condition does not affect his performance in the workplace.
The case of Milligan and Keltner could actually be solved with a simple solution All that Milligan has to do to determine whether it is ethically and legally allowed to subject Keltner to a reassignment is to know first whether Keltner could be classified as a person with disability or not. If it has been already proven that he is not a disabled person, it only means that Keltner may not appeal to the court using the Americans with Disabilities Act as a ground for his claim which validates Milligan’s rights to reassign him to whatever library department.
Do you consider Keltner’s Condition as a Disability?
There are several models that can be used to determine whether Keltner’s condition could be considered a disability or otherwise. Since the Americans with Disabilities Act require medical proof or basis of a person’s disability, it is definitely be a good idea to use a medical model in classifying Keltner’s condition.
The Nagi’s model of disability is one of the most widely used disability model in the medical discipline. It classifies a person’s condition under four categories: Active Pathology, Impairment, Functional Limitation, and Disability. Disability, under Nagi’s model of disability is defined as the inability of an individual to perform his societal roles (School of Public Health and Health Professions, 2012). Functional Limitation on the other hand is defined as the state wherein an individual experiences a condition that hinders him to perform his occupation and activities of daily living to the fullest. Having reviewed Nagi’s Model of Disability, it becomes clear that Keltner is not a disabled person but rather a person with a functional limitation. He could still perform his duties in the workplace and as an employee of the same company; he is just in a functionally limited state. He could still perform his role in the society; he could still pay his taxes and even interact with other people, at least during times when his manic-depressive disorder medications kick in.
Watson, S. (1993). Disability Issues in the Public Workplace. Kennedy School of Government: Harvard University.
United States Department of Justice. (2009). Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as Amended. Accessed April 2012. Available at http://www.ada.gov/pubs/ada.htm.
School of Public Health and Health Professions. (2012). Introduction to Americans with Disabilities Act. Accessed April 2012. Available at http://codi.buffalo.edu/graph_based/.demographics/.awd/Intro.html.