What is a reasonable accommodation?
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. A reasonable accommodation is a modification to a disabled employee’s work environment that enables the employee to perform the “essential job functions” of his or her position.
To be eligible for a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, an employee must show that he or she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. The employee can request a reasonable accommodation if a workplace obstacle prevents the employee from competing for a job in the hiring process or performing a job, or bars the employee from equal access to any employment benefit.
Types of reasonable accommodations
There are many types of reasonable accommodations that an employer can be required to provide to a disabled employee. An employer can be required to make the physical facilities accessible to an employee, modify the employee’s work schedule, restructure the job, reassign the employee, allow the employee to work from home, or allow the employee to take leave.
For example, an employee may tell a supervisor that he or she temporarily needs to start work an hour later than the usual start time due to a daily medical treatment such as physical therapy or dialysis. Another example is when an employee communicates the need for a larger parking spot to use the ramp on his or her wheelchair-accessible vehicle.
If a disability temporarily prevents an employee from reporting to or performing his or her job, the employee can request to use paid or unpaid leave during the absence, or to work from home. An employee can also request to work from home or take leave when the workplace experiences temporary adverse conditions, such as loss of air conditioning, heat, or adequate ventilation if such conditions impact the employee’s disability.
How to request a reasonable accommodation
A request for a reasonable accommodation may be made during the application or hiring process (to ensure the applicant has equal access to the position) or during the course of employment.
To request a reasonable accommodation during the course of employment, an employee must communicate to the employer that due to the employee’s medical condition, a change in the work place is needed to enable the employee to perform his or her job. The employee can also provide a doctor’s note stating that the employee’s disability requires certain medical restrictions relating to the employee’s job.
The employee must inform the employer that the employee has a disability or medical condition in order to request a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. The employee must link the request for reasonable accommodation to a medical condition or disability.
In some circumstances, an employer is entitled to request medical information and documentation when an employee requests a reasonable accommodation.
An employee’s request for a reasonable accommodation may be communicated orally or in writing. It is generally preferable to put the request for a reasonable accommodation in writing, to establish that the request was made and document the date of the request. Such documentation can be useful if an employer causes unnecessary delays in responding to a reasonable accommodation request or in implementing it, in violation of the ADA.
It is important to note that your employer is prohibited from retaliating against you for requesting an accommodation, whether it is granted or denied.
What is the “interactive process”?
In many cases, following the employee’s request for a reasonable accommodation, the employer and employee engage in what is referred to as the “interactive process.” This process is undertaken to determine whether the employee has a disability that requires an accommodation as well as to discuss possible solutions.
During the interactive process, the employee and employer discuss the need for reasonable accommodations, explore accommodation options, and attempt to agree on the appropriate accommodations and how those accommodations will be implemented and monitored.
What if your employer denies your request for reasonable accommodation?
An employer is required to provide reasonable accommodations to a disabled employee unless providing such reasonable accommodation would cause “undue hardship” to the employer’s business. Some employers deny requested accommodations by claiming that it would cause undue hardship. An employer may also deny a reasonable accommodation request by claiming that the employee failed to establish that the employee has a disability that requires accommodation.
You should consider contacting an experienced employment lawyer if your employer denies your request for a reasonable accommodation, or if you need help requesting a reasonable accommodation. Murphy Law Group focuses exclusively on employment law and representing employees in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (267) 273-1054 for a free consultation.