What's a "Reasonable" Accommodation?

Demystifying a Reasonable Accommodation

If you have recently been injured or have a physical or medical condition that makes it difficult to perform your job duties, your employer may be required to provide you with a reasonable accommodation. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, has a history or record of such an impairment, or is perceived as having such an impairment must be given a reasonable accommodation in the workplace unless it causes the employer undue hardship. What exactly does that mean? Let’s take a look at the standard of when your employer must provide you with a reasonable accommodation, what the definition of “reasonable” is, how to request an accommodation, and what to do if your employer refuses or fails to provide you with a reasonable accommodation.

What Is An Accommodation?

An accommodation is some form of assistance with or change to a person’s job duties, workplace environment, or schedule that allows them to work despite their physical limitations. Some examples of a reasonable accommodation might be a different type of desk or work space that allows a person to sit down during the day or fit a wheelchair in their work space; breaks to take medication or a short rest; transferring the employee to another available position that accommodates their physical restrictions; modifying work hours or work days to allow an employee to get weekly medical treatments; and use of special software to magnify words or convert documents to audio.

These are just a few examples of the types of assistance or modification an employer might need to make for a disabled employee.

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What’s “Reasonable”?

An accommodation is reasonable if it appears feasible and plausible. An employer cannot be required to provide an accommodation that would cause undue hardship for the employer. An accommodation is considered to cause undue hardship if it would be significantly expensive or difficult for the employer to implement or it would be unduly substantial or disruptive to the business’s operations.

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How Do You Request a Reasonable Accommodation From Your Employer?

If you need assistance or a change at work due to your disability, you must let your employer know. You do not need to use any special language. Simply requesting an accommodation for the limitations caused by your disability or medical condition is sufficient. This means that you do not need to specifically cite the ADA or use the term “reasonable accommodation.” Instead, you can just use plain language. However, it is your responsibility to make the request to your employer and make them aware of the fact that your request is linked to your disability or medical condition, so that they are aware of your need and request.

What If Your Employer Refuses or Fails to Provide a Reasonable Accommodation?

If you make a request to your employer for a reasonable accommodation and they fail or refuse to provide a change or assistance, they may be in violation of the law. Keep in mind that the way you make your request is important. For example, if you inform your employer that you need breaks during the day or that your chair is uncomfortable without providing them with information linking these needs to a physical or medical condition, you may have failed to make a proper request for a reasonable accommodation.

However, if you made a proper request and your employer is still refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation, you should contact an experienced lawyer right away to help you negotiate an accommodation. Under the ADA, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees with disabilities and it is important for you to know your rights as a disabled worker. If you feel that you have been discriminated against in the workplace due to your physical disability or medical condition or that your employer is failing or refusing to provide you with a reasonable accommodation at work, contact our law office immediately for a review of your case.

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