Asperger's Disorder

We have recently hired an employee (last 2 weeks), who has not been picking up on the position as quickly as others have. The supervisor had a meeting with this employee at the 1 week mark talking to him about how he hasn't advanced as quickly as other new hires and asked him what we need to do to help him. He didn't say anything, other than he has a hard time understanding our Hispanic supervisor.

The next day he comes in saying that he is quitting and that today would be his last day. His father then calls the HR Department and says that he has Asperger's Disorder and that we need to accomodate him. Our application and interview process asks many times if accommodations are needed to perform the job and no mention of this has come up.

As the HR Dir, I went and spent the next morning in our production location with the employee, trainer and supervisor to see if I could help with the training or of finding a way that could trigger better understanding of the process. I spent about 3 hours, and did see some improvements. He is doing part of a process that people can do in less than 2 1/2 min, he is taking 5-8 min.

My supervisor is very frustrated and has basically just said, I'm done, either move him or get rid of him. I dont' feel that is right, but am not quite sure what to do. I don't believe that he will ever get up to speed as the rest of the team, which will build resentment from the team. He is afraid to watch people perform their job to help in the understanding of what he needs to do. When we ask him how he learns best or what things can we do to help him pick up a task to full understanding, he doesn't have any suggestions for us.



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  • sawynia, we asked Virginia Employment Law Letter editor Jonathan Mook, a national expert on the Americans with Disabilities Act who has led many of our virtual events and audio conferences on the ADA, to weigh in on your question. Here is his reply. tk

    You have a difficult situation on your hands, but don’t let your supervisor’s frustration affect how you deal with the employee. Under the broadened definition of disability of the ADA Amendments Act, it probably is safe to assume that the employee has a disability covered by the statute and that you need to go through, as you have been doing, the interactive reasonable accommodation process. If you and the employee cannot come up with anything that will help him improve his performance, you may want to contact the Job Accommodation Network at (800) 526-7234 for suggestions. You also may want to contact any organizations in your community that deal with intellectual disabilities, including Asperger’s Syndrome.

    The EEOC has advised that a temporary job coach may be a reasonable accommodation, so this is something you may need to consider. (Bear in mind that the job coach is to help and assist the employee to perform the job, not to perform the job tasks instead of the employee.)

    Finally, if your attempts to accommodate do not help and the employee continues to perform poorly, are there any vacant jobs that the employee can do? You can still hold the employee to your production standards and take a job action if, with reasonable accommodations, he cannot meet your production standards. Nonetheless, before giving in to your supervisor’s frustrations, you should make the accommodation attempts. It’s not only the right thing to do, but also is legally required.

    Jonathan R. Mook, Esq.
    DiMuroGinsberg, P.C.
    908 King Street, Suite 200
    Alexandria, Virginia 22314-3067
    (703) 684-4333
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