Ask HR: Standing-desk evaluating needs vs. wants?

Dear HR:

My company is working towards improving ergonomics with the goal that nearly everyone will eventually have a sit/stand desk. At this point, we provide these special desks a few at a time, as budget allows. We are currently distributing these desks in order of seniority, but we are also including anyone that has made us aware of any physical issue that would be helped by the sit/stand option. We are noticing a trend – some employees have “magically” developed an issue that would move them up the list as soon as someone in close proximity receives a desk. How can our HR department implement this desk change-out and still maintain proper HR policies for serving deserving employees who need this accommodation?


Ask HR:

The process you are using for determining how to parse out the desks is fine and giving priority to those with a medical need is a good practice. If an employee says they need any kind of accommodation in order to do their job, you must treat it as a formal request for an accommodation under the American Disabilities Act (ADA) and state laws. You have a duty to respond to such requests as quickly as possible by beginning an interaction with your employee to determine if their request is reasonable and if it allows them to perform the essential functions of the job.

Under both Federal and State disability laws, if an employee indicates that an adjustable height workstation is needed due to a medical condition, and the disability is not obvious, the employer may ask the employee to provide medical documentation to support the request.

Keep in mind, if you request a doctor’s note and the employee must see the doctor to get the note, the company must pay for that office visit.  Be clear about what you are requesting of the employee so you don’t incur unwanted charges.