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What is a Reasonable Accommodation Under the ADA?

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires all employers with 15 or more employees to make reasonable accommodations to employees with physical or psychological disabilities. For some employers, this can seem daunting, since they do not really understand what is required of them by the ADA. So, what exactly is a reasonable accommodation, and how do you know when you need to provide one?

Reasonable Accommodations, Defined

            A reasonable accommodation is any change to the application or hiring process, or to the job or work environment, which allows someone with a disability to carry out the essential functions of their job as a non-disabled employee would. Some examples of reasonable accommodations include:

  • Providing software or equipment to help compensate for a disability
  • Providing access to a disabled parking space
  • Making a more flexible work schedule
  • Allowing a service animal on the property
  • Reorganizing job tasks
  • Reassigning an employee to a job they are better suited for

Reasonable accommodations are intended to be significant, but not overly burdensome for the employer. The point of these accommodations is to help an employee with a disability to better perform their job tasks, not to burden an employer with assisting someone unable to handle the job. However, some employers will refuse to provide even a basic accommodation for their disabled employees, making it nearly impossible for them to maintain their jobs.

Why Are Reasonable Accommodations Necessary?

            Title I of the ADA makes it illegal for companies with more than 15 employees to discriminate against anyone with a physical or psychological disability. This means it is illegal to refuse to hire or to fire someone because they have a disability. The only exception to this is if they are unable to perform their essential job duties, even with a reasonable accommodation from their employer.

This means that, legally speaking, an employer must provide reasonable accommodations to a prospective or current employee suffering from a physical or psychological disability. Aside from being legally required, it is also necessary to ensure people with disabilities who are qualified for certain positions have the same opportunity to pursue their careers. Without these reasonable accommodations, many otherwise qualified people would be locked out of the workforce and become unable to provide for themselves.

What if an Employer Will Not Make a Reasonable Accommodation?

Any employee who asks for a reasonable accommodation but does not receive it may have a few options. First, they can try to resolve the issue internally by going through their company’s Human Resources department, or by raising it with their boss or manager. If that fails, you can report ADA non-compliance with an appropriate state or federal agency, such as the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

However, if that does not work, it may be necessary to seek private legal action for the harm you have suffered. This means bringing a lawsuit yourself against your employer for the discrimination you have suffered. Before you do that, you should consult an attorney knowledgeable in employment discrimination matters to go over your options.

If you have gotten into a legal dispute with your employer, it is important that you seek the guidance of an experienced New York employment lawyer who can protect your legal rights and advocate on your behalf. Steven Mitchell Sack, the Employee’s Lawyer, is a New York employment lawyer with more than 39 years’ experience handling the many aspects of employment law. To schedule an appointment with New York City employment lawyer Steven Mitchell Sack, call (917) 371-8000.

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