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What is a Reasonable Accommodation under the ADA?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are prohibited from discriminating against qualified disabled workers in employment decisions, including hiring, firing, raises and promotions. In order for the protections of the Act to apply to a disabled worker, the worker must be qualified for the position. This means that the worker must be able to perform the basic functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodations.

The reasonable accommodations requirement of the ADA imposes on employers a duty to make certain adjustments to accommodate the disabled employee. This may include making facilities accessible by providing ramps and elevators for individuals who use wheelchairs, modifying equipment, such as desks and computers, to allow easier use by disabled employees or even restructuring the job or modifying the work schedule.

Reasonable Accommodations and Job-Related Purposes

Employers, however, are not required to provide any accommodation, which would impose an undue hardship on the employer or its operation of business. Whether or not an accommodation would create an undue hardship is determined by the expense and difficulty of the particular accommodation viewed in light of the employer’s size, revenue and nature and structure of its business.

Additionally, employers are not required to provide accommodations that are not job-related and are meant for the personal use of the disabled employee. Personal accommodations that would help the employee on and off the job also are excluded. For example, employers cannot be required to provide wheelchairs, hearing aids, glasses or prosthetics for their employees. To qualify, the accommodation must specifically help the employee complete his or her job duties and tasks.

Once an employee requests an accommodation, the employer and the employee should engage in an informal, cooperative process to determine the type of accommodation that will best help the employee complete the functions of the job. By law, the employer is not required to provide the best or most expensive accommodation that is available, but the one that will sufficiently meet the employee’s needs. Moreover, the accommodation is not required to completely eliminate any problems faced by the disabled employee in completing his or her job duties, or to provide the employee with every type of accommodation requested. The employer is required to use reasonable efforts to find accommodations that will sufficiently meet the employee’s needs.

Medical Documentation

The employer may ask the employee for documentation of the disability from a health care provider or medical specialist. The employer is within his or her rights to do this. The employer also may request the employee meet with a doctor designated by the employer. The employer also is within his or her rights to request this, so long as the examination is for a job-related purpose.

However, if the employee provided documentation from a health care provider about the condition to the employer, the employer is required to explain why the documentation is insufficient and provide the employee with an opportunity to provide additional documentation before requesting the employee see a physician of the employer’s choosing.

The employer also may ask the individual questions regarding the extent of his or her disability, which is also permissible as long as it done with the goal of determining the best type of accommodation.

Employers may not ask for documentation of the disability in cases where the disability itself and the employee’s need for a reasonable accommodation are obvious and in cases where the employee already has provided sufficient documentation of the disability and need for accommodation.

If your request for a reasonable accommodation has been denied or you have questions about filing an ADA claim, contact an experienced employee rights attorney today.

Copyright © 2008 FindLaw, a Thomson Reuters business

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