Defending Decency
And Civil Rights In The Workplace

What to know about the ADA’s reasonable accommodations provision

On Behalf of | Jul 2, 2024 | Disability & Accommodations

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides legal protections to disabled workers. These protections apply to all state and local governments, as well as private businesses that employ 15 or more people.

One of the key protections provided by the ADA is the right to request reasonable accommodations. Here, a disabled worker can request a modification to hiring practices or work environment to allow them an equal opportunity to secure the job in question, effectively perform their job duties, and enjoy the benefits of their job.

And reasonable accommodations can cover a lot. For example, you might be able to successfully request physical changes to your workspace, the installation of beneficial computer programming, the use of interpreters or closed captioning at meetings, and the use of a service animal. So, think through what you need to be successful at your place of work, then consider requesting the accommodations that are right for you.

Can your employer deny your reasonable accommodation request?

Yes. To do so in conformity with the law, the employer must show that the requested accommodation creates an undue hardship. In most instances, this means making the requested changes would be unreasonably costly to the employer. Your employer might also legally deny your request if fulfilling it is simply too difficult to do.

When the issue of undue hardship arises in a case, the court typically assesses the size of the business, its location and its financial resources.

However, if your employer finds that your request is unduly burdensome, they shouldn’t just outright deny your request and then put the matter to rest. Instead, they should try to find other accommodations that are similar and more achievable in light of the financial resources available. And if cost is really an issue, then you should be given an opportunity to pay for a portion of the requested accommodation before an outright denial is made.

What should you do if your reasonable accommodation request is denied?

You shouldn’t just give up. Instead, you might want to consider doing the following:

  • Ask for the denial justification in writing
  • Determining whether your employer has an appeal process that you can pursue
  • Elevating the issue to a higher manager, human resources executive or ADA compliance officer
  • Filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
  • Pursuing a workplace discrimination lawsuit.

Remember, as you navigate the reasonable accommodation process, you want to generate as much evidence as possible.

It’s beneficial to get as much in writing as you can and try to have witnesses with you when you interact with your employer face-to-face or by phone. Your attorney might also be able to help you gain access to your employer’s financial statements and internal communications to see how your reasonable accommodation request was handled.

Don’t be afraid to stand up to your employer

You deserve to be safe at work and enjoy the same employment opportunities as other non-disabled workers. You shouldn’t tolerate unfairness.

That said, we know it can be stressful to stand up to your employer. You might be worried about retaliation or what a legal claim will do to your reputation, but you have to be brave and stand up for what’s right. With strong legal arguments on your side, you can reduce the stress and confidently move forward with your case knowing that you’re doing what’s best for you and other disabled workers who may come after you.

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