The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, State and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation. In accordance with the ADA, employers are required to provide their employees with disabilities reasonable accommodations in the workplace.  This generally means employers must provide necessary assistance or changes to the workplace to enable an employee to do their job despite having a disability. In addition, the ADA requires business establishments to provide access to persons with disabilities.

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 considering the nature of the employee's work and work environment. However, accommodations that would impose an undue hardship on the employer are not required.  Examples of some common accommodations include:

  • Making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities
  • Job restructuring,
  • Modifying work schedules
  • Reassignment to a vacant position
  • Acquisition or modification of equipment or devices
  • Training materials or policies
  • Provision of qualified readers or interpreters

What Is Undue Hardship?

If a requested accommodation is excessively expensive or difficult to implement, an employer may be able to deny it. In evaluating this, courts will use a balancing test comparing the accommodation with the employer's financial resources and the benefit of retaining the employee.

When Must Employers Provide a Reasonable Accommodation?

When a reasonable accommodation is required depends on the jurisdiction. Some courts require employees to first put in a request to their employer for an accommodation, while others place an affirmative duty on the employer to make such accommodations available. 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 to fulfill its duty.

What If My Employer Refuses to Make an Accommodation?

If your employer refuses to make a reasonable accommodation after a timely request, before you take court action you must make an additional attempt to ensure that your employer understands your need for the accommodation based on your disability. Explain that you have a legal right to reasonable accommodation to do your job and without the accommodation, you are unable to perform your duties. If the employer ignores your request, you should consult an employment lawyer as you may have a claim under the ADA for legal damages.

What Is ADA Access?

The term "ADA access" usually refers to a business establishment’s ability to accommodate persons with disabilities. Under the law, "public accommodations" need to be made in order to ensure that all persons can freely access and use business establishments. These include:

  • Installing wheelchair ramps and other similar entrances
  • Providing handicap parking spaces in parking lots
  • Ensuring that restroom facilities are accessible and can accommodate those with disabilities
  • Installing handrails and widening pathways in some areas
  • Any other arrangements which might be necessary to cover disability issues

Where Is ADA Access Required?

ADA access and accommodation requirements generally apply to public areas, or areas that are frequently visited by people. These include restaurants, stores, malls, office spaces, movie houses, public restrooms, sidewalks, and public parks. Also, individual accommodations may be required under special circumstances, depending on the nature of the venue and the needs of the community. For instance, special accommodation may be needed for disability issues regarding public transportation.

What Are Some Consequences of ADA Violations?

An ADA access violation can result in several unwanted and negative consequences for businesses. These can include a citation, fines, or an injunction requiring the business owner to fix the inadequate condition. Also, if a patron of the business was injured due to a violation, the business owner may face a private civil lawsuit filed by the injured party. This can result in a personal injury damages award if the plaintiff can prove that their injuries or financial losses were directly caused by the ADA violation.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you have been fired for having a disability or for requesting an accommodation, your employer has not made an accommodation for you in a reasonable length of time, or you have been injured as a result of a business establishments failure to provide reasonable access, you may have a claim under the ADA for damages. Consulting a skilled employment lawyer with experience in disability law can help you evaluate your case, gather evidence, hire experts, and represent you in court.