Everyone deserves equal employment opportunities. However, if you suffer from a disability, the burden is going to fall on you to ensure that your rights are protected. This means knowing the law and how to navigate it to your advantage. For those who are disabled, this includes asking for reasonable accommodations when necessary, and knowing how to work with an employer who is resistant to providing such an accommodation or who outright denies such requests.
Before you can request a reasonable accommodation, you have to demonstrate that you have a disability. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, this means showing that you have a physical or mental condition that substantially limits at least one major life activity. Although many of these disabilities may be obvious to your employer, sometimes that’s not the case. If your condition isn’t obvious to your employer, it can request documentation of your medical condition.
Addressing essential job functions
Something else you have to show in order to be capable of requesting a reasonable accommodation is that that you’re able to fulfill the job’s essential functions. Therefore, you’ll want to break the job down to its basic components and show how you’re able to meet them, either with or without an accommodation.
What type of accommodation can you ask for?
There are a lot of accommodations out there that you can request. Before making your request, you need to have a strong understanding of what sort of accommodation is the best fit for you under the circumstances. The accommodations that you might be able to request include:
- Changed work assignments
- Increased accessibility, such as ramps
- Modified work schedule
- Necessary equipment, such as specific software
You can get creative here, so carefully think through what sort of accommodation would help you perform your work.
Can your employer deny your request?
Yes. Your employer can deny your request for an accommodation if they believe it creates an undue hardship. This is primarily a financial consideration, but your employer may also claim that your requested accommodation disrupts essential business operations. Regardless of the justifications offered for the denial, you should try to work with your employer to find an alternative accommodation that provides you with the assistance that you need while reducing costs for your employer.
As you have these conversations with your employer, you’ll want to make sure that you’re retaining all communications. Your employer’s position on this matter could help lay the foundation for a workplace discrimination claim if you later face an adverse employment decision that’s based on your disability.
What do you need to do to protect your interests?
To start, try to obtain an accommodation if you need one. If your request is denied, make an effort to informally resolve the matter, making sure you document your attempts. If you’re still unsuccessful in acquiring the accommodation that you need, make sure that you perform your job to the best of your ability. If your employer gives you bad performance reviews or makes negative comments about you or your work, keep those, too.
In the event that a negative employment action is taken against you, such as demotion, reassignment to a less favorable job, or termination, you can use the evidence that you’ve documented and gathered to support a workplace discrimination claim. Your employer will probably try to justify its actions based on your poor performance, but if you were denied a reasonable accommodation, you may be able to relate your performance issues to your disability that your employer failed to accommodate.
You should be treated fairly in the workplace. When you’re not, you need to be prepared for legal action. A legal team that is experienced in handling workplace discrimination cases might be able to help you build the persuasive arguments that you need to hold your employer accountable and recover the compensation that you deserve, which is why, if you think you’ve been discriminated against, now may be the time to reach out for the help that you need.