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What to Do if Coworkers Complain About an Employee’s Accommodation

Upset coworkers in an office

There is still a lot of disability discrimination in the workplace, and while employers are making reasonable accommodations to ensure that employees’ rights are protected, many companies are dealing with a different but related issue. They grant an employee an accommodation, only to hear complaints from the employees who do not require such accommodation.

This is a situation that seriously impacts employee morale. After all, dozens of employees now have to pick up the slack for one employee who cannot work weekends due to a religious belief. In another example, employees at a once dog-friendly office must now leave their canines at home because a new employee is severely allergic to dogs.

When an employee needs to make modifications to a job, he or she can request a reasonable accommodation. Employers must make accommodations for the employee as long as it does not create an undue hardship. An undue hardship is defined as expensive, difficult or disruptive.

What some employers don’t understand is that some situations create an undue hardship for the other employees. For example, if one employee uses religion as a reason to not work weekends, another employee will have to take that person’s place. This also makes it appear as if the employee is getting preferential treatment. This will cause others to complain and this causes morale to suffer.

In some courts, the fact that a religious employee would get shift priority would be construed as preferential treatment, causing an undue hardship. Some courts, however, would require a greater degree of negative impact on the other employees.

What is a Reasonable Accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is any modification to the job that would allow an employee with a disability or certain religion to perform the required tasks of the job. This would include providing a certain type of equipment, change to a work schedule, greater accessibility, modification to training materials or reassignment to a different position.

What Employers Can Do

To prevent complaints, employers must balance accommodation requests with the feelings of the other employees. For example, if an employee is allergic to dogs, but the company has always allowed dogs on Fridays, the allergic employee may be able to work from home on Fridays.

If an employee is unable to work on Saturdays, perhaps another employee would be willing to work Saturdays and get a different day off during the week. Those who volunteer could be rewarded in other ways as well (the ability to leave early once a week, longer lunch, telecommuting, etc.).

Contact a New York Discrimination Attorney

Employers have an obligation to accommodate reasonable requests, but at the same time, they must be prepared for complaints from other employees. It’s important that employers understand their rights and responsibilities, so they can come up with a plan that balances the needs of everyone.

If you are facing disability discrimination in the workplace, the experienced New York discrimination attorneys at Ricotta & Marks, P.C. can help. We will assess the situation to see if an undue hardship exists. For legal help, schedule a consultation by calling (347)-464-8694.

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