The EEOC has declared that the responsibility to initiate the interactive process of figuring out the appropriate ADA accommodation for an employee with a disability lies primarily with an employee. “If an employee with a known disability has a difficulty performing his or her job, an employer may inquire whether the employee is in need of a reasonable accommodation. In general, however, it is the responsibility of the individual with disability to inform the employer that an accommodation is needed.” EEOC Interpretive Guide (1999). It is the employee’s initial request for accommodation which triggers t employer’s obligation to participate in the interactive process of determining one.
If the employee fails to request an ADA accommodation, the employer cannot be held liable for failing t provide one. An employee who disability is not apparent is therefore obliged to make a specific request for a necessary accommodation. This notice then triggers the employer’s burden to take “positive steps” to accommodate that employee’s limitations. The employee, of course, retains a duty to cooperate with the employer’s efforts by explaining his disability and how it affects or may affect his job performance.