Third Shift Blues
April 17, 2014 8:29 PM   Subscribe

(asking on behalf of a friend) I'm thinking about using the ADA regulations to try to move from night shift to day shift. How would this work?

About 2 years ago, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and 6 months ago I took a night shift position in a veterinary lab. Working the night shift is aggravating my depression and it's making it really hard just to function on a daily basis. My job also has 1st and 2nd shift positions, but they're full right now. I really love my job except for third shift stuff, and I don't want to quit.

I'm wondering if anybody knows about the ADA process and whether this is considered a "reasonable accommodation". How do I go about requesting that they move me to first shift?
posted by zug to Work & Money (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure where you live, but even if its not in New England, call the New England ADA center and they can refer you to a resource in your state. 1-800-949-4232
posted by Sal and Richard at 8:43 PM on April 17, 2014

A federal court that covers Pennsylvania ruled, in 2013, that changing shifts is considered reasonable accommodation if the job description doesn't say that overnights is an essential function.

The process begins by getting an opinion from your doctor as to whether changing shifts would aid in treating or improving your disability. Once that is in hand, a trip to either your boss or your HR department (depending on your relationship with your boss) is in order. Just be frank but polite. "Hello, $person, I am having difficulty managing a mental health issue while working the night shift. My doctor says that working days or swings would greatly improve things and I would like to discuss how this can be accomplished."

Who knows, the other shifts might be full but someone might want to change positions (and leave his or her current shift), might be resigning soon, or there may be extra work that they could benefit from having you do. You could walk into your boss' office and she says "excellent thinking, Jenkins, I've been hoping that someone would ask!"
posted by fireoyster at 9:29 PM on April 17, 2014

Northern California.
posted by zug at 10:26 PM on April 17, 2014

The ADA covers 'reasonable' accommodations --- while getting transferred to the 1st or 2nd shifts would help you, as you say those shifts are already fully staffed: does the ADA permit you to FORCE one of those people to swap shifts with you, or does it merely mean you should be given the next opening if no one •volunteers• to trade shifts?
posted by easily confused at 5:45 AM on April 18, 2014

Former HR person here - switching shifts may be a reasonable accommodation, however, your company does not have to create a position for you or force someone else to give up his/her day shift position. cite here: see #82

This process starts by you going to your HR person and explaining that your GP/psychiatrist/whomever is treating your BPD has recommended you no longer work the night shift due to a medical condition. They should start a dialogue with you to determine that you are a "qualified individual with a disability" per the ADA, and to decide what a reasonable accommodation might be. You almost certainly will need to provide documentation from your healthcare provider to substantiate your request.

Unfortunately, the ADA doesn't require they reassign you to dayshift, especially if there are no vacancies - although perhaps a current dayshifter would be willing to trade? Usually night shift means higher pay. Additionally, if there is an established seniority system wherein nightshifters wait to move to days, moving you may not be "reasonable" if it would violate that seniority system.

I hope this works out for you & your company is willing & able to move you to dayshift. In my experience working for a national company with employees in about 25 states, including California, California is the most employee-friendly state in the nation (again, in my personal experience). I hope this holds true for you and you're able to switch shifts soon!

Also, as a current nightshifter, you have my sympathies. It's not for everyone. I've been fortunate so far to be able to easily sleep during the day but it's still wreaked general havoc on my personal and social life. There's just no getting around that. Good luck to you.
posted by pecanpies at 8:43 AM on April 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

EEOC guidelines regarding reasonable accommodation to be found here, by the way. There is a section title "Reassignment" that is particularly relevant.
posted by pecanpies at 8:45 AM on April 18, 2014

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