Reasonable Accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act

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What Is a Reasonable Accommodation under the ADA?

A reasonable accommodation is a change an employer makes to the work environment, schedule or procedures to help a disabled employee perform essential job functions or major life activities in the workplace. All such accommodations must be reasonable in light of the nature of the employee's work and work environment, and must not impose undue hardship on the employer.

What Is Undue Hardship?

Even if a requested accommodation is reasonable, if it would be very difficult or expensive for the employer to grant the accommodation, it may deny the employee's request. Courts will often compare the actual cost of the accommodation with the employer's financial resources and the benefit of retaining the employee.  

When Must Employers Provide a Reasonable Accommodation?

Some courts require disabled employees to request accommodations before employers are obligated to provide any, while other courts say employers have an automatic duty to accommodate an employee's obvious disability.  However, since it may violate the ADA to assume an employee has a qualifying impairment or is substantially limited by an actual impairment, it may be difficult (or risky) for an employer to determine it has such a duty without a request. If an employee requests several reasonable accommodations, the employer need not necessarily grant each one in order to fulfill its duty.

Most courts agree that choosing reasonable accommodations should be an interactive process between employer and employee. If an employer fails to make a good faith effort to engage in the process, it violates the ADA unless it can prove there was no reasonable accommodation possible or the only reasonable accommodations requested would impose undue hardship.

Do I Need an Employment Attorney?

Individuals who feel they have been discriminated against on the basis of their disability should promptly consult an employment attorney. An experienced employment lawyer can help you determine whether or not your employer failed to provide you with reasonable accommodations for your disability, as well as help you with federal and state claim filing procedures.

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Last Modified: 10-14-2014 12:16 PM PDT

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