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Reasonable accommodation: EEOC advisory reflects lively debate

This is a follow-up to a post we did earlier this month on reasonable accommodation of disabilities in the workplace.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits disability discrimination by employers. As we noted in our May 6 post, however, there are numerous factors involved in determining whether a particular request for an accommodation is reasonable or would constitute an undue hardship for the employer.

In this post, we will take note of a recent advisory on the subject that was issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

A few weeks ago, the EEOC released a five-page advisory on its website about how the agency views issues involving reasonable accommodation. Though the letter was presented as informal, it was signed by the agency’s legal counsel.

It includes a reminder that when an employee makes a request for reasonable accommodation of a disability, that request must be considered on an individualized basis.

The letter went on to assert that it is difficult to articulate a policy on reasonable accommodation that fully addresses all of the variables. But the EEOC has nonetheless issued a sample policy, in the hope of assisting employers with ADA compliance.

The advisory letter also addresses some of the recurring issues that can come up in reasonable accommodation requests. For example, it asserts that allowing someone to work from home may indeed qualify as a reasonable accommodation.

The sample policy that the EEOC had issued earlier had taken a different view on telecommuting from home. The sample policy takes the position that such telecommuting is generally not a reasonable accommodation, unless the circumstances are extraordinary.

In short, the informal advisory letter and the sample policy to which it responded show how dynamic the discussion on ADA accommodation continues to be.

Source: Bloomberg BNA, “EEOC Cautions Against Using Sample Policy, forms for ADA Accommodation Requests,” May 5, 2014

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