Areyana Johnson
Austin/Houston Employment Trial Lawyer Areyana Johnson

Yes, it’s true. You have a duty to engage in the interactive process after submitting an accommodation request to your employer. The inquiry does not end after submission of your request. This blog will dive deeper into what is required by the employee during the interactive process.

Interactive Process

An accommodation request triggers the obligation of the employer to do one of two actions: (1) provide the requested accommodation or (2) seek information to evaluate the employee’s needs. Option two is more common as sometimes a reasonable accommodation is not obvious. Thus, in order to determine what accommodations can be implemented, the employer and employee engage in the interactive process. The interactive process places dual obligations on the employee and the employer to determine whether and which reasonable accommodations can be made for the employee.  This good faith interaction consists of back-and-forth information sharing to ideally achieve a mutual solution. At the heart of this process is the consideration of factors such as the limitation and capabilities of the employee, the needs and constraints of the employer so as to not cause an undue hardship, and the range of possibilities to reach the mutual agreed solution. For more details on the interactive process, click here.

Employee’s Duty

Well, what is my duty as an employee? As mentioned above, you as an employee are obligated to participate following the submission of an accommodation request. Typically the employer will request more information from you and your health provider. This request for information is what’s known as a medical certification which identifies your work restrictions. It is your duty to provide this form to your health provider and ensure that your employer has received it. A common misconception about this form is the disclosure of all medical related information being disclosed to your employer. Fear not, that is not what’s being required. Employers are only entitled to what is reasonably necessary.

Furthermore, once the necessary medical documentation has been submitted, the selection of available accommodations is next. It is up to you to inform the employer of any suggested accommodation which may be ineffective. Ineffective accommodations may be deemed as a failure to engage in an interactive process. In fact, although not legally required, it is highly recommended that employers choose the accommodation the employee prefers. During implementation of the accommodation, it is important to monitor the progress. Ask yourself is this accommodation working for me? Have circumstances caused a modification in the accommodation whether it’s a new limitation or change in the workplace? Monitoring the accommodation after implementation is a forgotten step but it’s important to continue communication with your employer regarding any necessary changes or modifications.

To that end, courts have opined on the employee’s duty to engage in the interactive process. For example, in Texas Workforce Commission v. Seymore, No. 02-23-00036-CV 2024 WL 283688 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth Jan. 25,2024) the appellate court provided a descriptive framework of the dual duty of both employees and employers in the interactive process. Involving a reasonable accommodation for a disability, the employee failed to satisfy her duty by dropping the ball on her interactive process. Here, the employee halted further accommodation discussions and resigned. Seymore, 2024 WL 283688 at *6.  While the inquiry into the failed duty ends here, the framework from this case serves as a helpful guide into what the interactive process would have looked like had the employee not resigned. Id. at *6.

 From the court’s holding, we know that an employer’s offer to place the employee in another position with a $7 pay reduction is not in bad faith because it is possible the employer would have raised its offer had the employee not pulled the plug on accommodation discussions by resigning. Id. at *7.  A second takeaway from the holding is that an employer’s rejection of an employee’s preferred accommodation is also not in bad faith where the existence of several possible accommodations is present. Id.  As mentioned previously, an employee is not entitled to her preferred accommodation request if there are other available accommodations an employer could adopt that would satisfy the employee’s limitations.

In sum, the duties underlying the interactive process are shared by the employee and the employer. If you find yourself in this situation or your employer is failing to engage in the interactive process, please don’t hesitate to give our office a call to discuss your avenues of relief.

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Photo of Areyana Johnson Areyana Johnson
  • What is the most important issue to you of being an advocate?
    • Leveraging my skillset to bring attention to the issues workers face in the employment law realm.
  • Who is your favorite Supreme Court Justice?
    • Thurgood Marshall.
  • Besides Rob Wiley, P.C., what is
  • What is the most important issue to you of being an advocate?
    • Leveraging my skillset to bring attention to the issues workers face in the employment law realm.
  • Who is your favorite Supreme Court Justice?
    • Thurgood Marshall.
  • Besides Rob Wiley, P.C., what is the most interesting job that you have had?
    • Summer Camp Counselor for UHD Engineering.
  • What is your favorite food?
    • Italian cuisine.
  • What’s the best part of living in (current city)?
    • Houston is so diverse and filled with so many food options. I have currently tasked myself with trying a new restaurant at least once a month.
  • Why did you start practicing labor and employment law?
    • I really enjoyed Labor law in law school. It was my favorite course.
  •  What skills do you value as an employment attorney?
    • Interpersonal skills. I think it is very important to hone in on the ability to truly connect with others, especially employees who are trusting you to handle their legal disputes.
  • What do you do when you’re not practicing law?
    • I love nature walks, spa dates, and water activities.
  • What’s your favorite legal movie?
    • Legally Blonde 
  • What’s your favorite legal TV show?
    • Law and Order SVU
  • What do you most want your clients to know about you?
    • That I’m committed to defending and upholding workers’ rights. Working with me will truly feel like working alongside a dedicated player.