What is a reasonable accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation means a change to the job or working environment that enables an employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of the job, or that enables an applicant with a disability to apply for a job.

To be eligible for a reasonable accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), an employee must be qualified for the job and have a disability caused by a medical condition that is covered by the statute.

The ADA does not specify the medical conditions that qualify as disabilities under the statute. Instead, the statute requires that an employee must have a physical or mental condition that substantially limits a major life activity, a history of disability, or be regarded by the employer as having a disability.

What types of medical conditions qualify for a reasonable accommodation?

Some employees have medical conditions that require an employer to provide well-established reasonable accommodations such as making the workplace accessible or providing alternate communication methods or devices for visually-impaired or hearing-impaired applicants and employees.

However, there are many other medical conditions that may be the basis for a reasonable accommodation. It is important to note that some people with specific medical conditions will be found to have a disability under the ADA, while others will not. Often, an individual analysis of the employee’s medical condition and its effect on the employee’s ability to perform the essential job functions is required.

For example, some employees with these medical conditions may qualify for a reasonable accommodation:

• Light sensitivity (also known as photosensitivity) – may cause migraines, visual disturbances, or other symptoms. Reasonable accommodations the employee may be entitled to include lowering the brightness of lights, light filters, replacement of fluorescent lights, removal of flickering lights, modification of computer screens, and use of light-filtering window treatments. Specially tinted eyewear may also be requested to eradicate or minimize the effects of light sensitivity. In severe cases of light sensitivity, it may be necessary to move the employee’s workspace or allow the employee to work from home.

• Thyroid disorders – including hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, thyroid cancer, thyroiditis, Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s disease. Some reasonable accommodations for thyroid disorders include a flexible schedule to manage fatigue, flexible rest and restroom breaks to address stress, anxiety and metabolic symptoms, controlling the temperature in the employee’s workspace to accommodate an inability to regulate body temperature, and modifying the dress code to enable the employee to maintain body temperature at a comfortable level.

• Migraines – vascular headaches that may be accompanied by temporary vision disturbances or loss of vision, extreme pain, mental confusion, fatigue, nausea, and vertigo. Reasonable accommodations may be directed toward either triggers or symptoms of migraine. Triggers include workplace lighting, smells, smoke, and noise. Reasonable accommodations to address triggers include changing the lighting in the employee’s workstation, moving the employee’s workstation away from noisy areas or areas with strong odors, providing a sound machine, requesting that other employees refrain from perfume or cologne use, and utilizing air purifiers. Reasonable accommodations to address symptoms could include increased work breaks, flexible leave, or allowing the employee to work from home if a migraine occurs. In addition, the employer could be required to provide a darkened, quiet room to the employee when a migraine occurs.

These are just a few examples of medical conditions that may entitle you to apply for a reasonable accommodation.

If you believe that your medical condition may be affecting your ability to perform your job and have questions about how to apply for a reasonable accommodation — or if your employer has denied your request — you should contact an experienced employment lawyer. Murphy Law Group focuses exclusively on employment law and representing employees in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Email us at murphy@phillyemploymentlawyer.com or call (267) 273-1054 for a free consultation.