The federal Americans with Disabilities Act protects private and public employees from being discriminated against in the workplace based on a known disability. It not only makes disability discrimination illegal, but it also includes an express requirement that employers make reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities.
Okay, so employers are required to make reasonable accommodations. But what are reasonable accommodations and for whom exactly do they have to be made? Let’s turn to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for answers the agency’s these questions.
A disability can affect your ability to perform essential job functions, but this does not mean that it is impossible for you to do them. In many cases, it requires only a simple modification or “reasonable accommodation.” For instance, if you suffer from partial blindness, you may simply need a larger computer screen or a little extra time to read documents.
Disabilities do not affect everyone in the same way. Reasonable accommodations must be made on a case-to-case basis, and the individual affected by the disability most often knows what the best solution is.
If you have made a claim for a reasonable accommodation, your employers is put on notice of your disability. Of course, this is not the only way in which a disability can be considered “known” for purposes of requiring reasonable accommodation. However, it is one of the most common ways.
Once you have made this request or a disability is otherwise known, an employer is required to make a reasonable accommodation. Employers are not required to make accommodations that would create an “undue hardship” on behalf of the employer or the company.
What is included under “reasonable accomodations”? This definition can include physical adjustments or tangible equipment such as the larger computer screen or a wheelchair ramp. This can also include modifications to job duties, restructuring a job description or providing for a modified schedule. It can also include special training, the use of an interpreter or even allowing the employee to be reassigned to a different, open position.
The truth is that not only is it a case-by-case determination, but it is not always a clear line. If you believe that you have been mistreated due to your disability or that your employer has failed to make reasonable accommodations, you should discuss your situation with a lawyer.