What is a Reasonable Accommodation for a Disability?

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of disability. Under this law, employers must provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. Why would an individual need a reasonable accommodation? Suppose an employee’s disability is negatively affecting his work performance. A reasonable accommodation – or an adjustment in his job duties or work environment – could make it much easier to work. Basically, an accommodation would allow him to complete the essential functions of his job despite his disability.

What is a Disability?

A disability is any physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

  • A physical impairment is any physiological condition affecting one of the body systems. A very common physical impairment is a spinal or back injury.
  • A mental impairment is any mental or psychological condition. Psychiatric disorders and mental disabilities are common mental impairments. Examples include mental retardation, anxiety disorders, and depression.
  • A major life activity can be anything from concentrating to performing manual tasks. Other examples include breathing, caring for oneself, walking, and reaching.

What is an Example of a Reasonable Accommodation for a Disability?

  • An employer has ramps installed in the workplace for an employee who uses a wheelchair.
  • An employee has to visit the doctor frequently. Her employer allows her to have a flexible schedule so that she can make it to all of her appointments.
  • An employee’s disability makes it difficult to walk. He is moved to a desk much closer to the printer he uses daily.
  • An employee with a spinal injury is given a new chair because her regular chair aggravates her back pain.
  • An employer modifies her workplace policy so that a service animal can accompany one of her employees.

This list of examples is incomplete. There are many more examples of reasonable accommodations that can be made for disabled employees.Talk to an employment attorney if you have questions about a specific disability or reasonable accommodation.

Do I Have to Request a Reasonable Accommodation for a Disability?

Your employer cannot offer you a reasonable accommodation if he or she does not know you are disabled. If your employer is not aware of your disability, you can inform him or her when you request a reasonable accommodation. An employer is not required to give you one unless you ask for it, even if he or she is aware of your disability.

What if I am not Given a Reasonable Accommodation for a Disability?

Denial of a reasonable accommodation can be an act of disability discrimination. In some cases, however, it may be allowed. If your reasonable accommodation would result in an undue hardship on your employer, he or she may legally deny your request. An undue hardship exists when the reasonable accommodation is too difficult or costly of your employer to provide. If you request a costly accommodation from a large corporation with great financial resources, it would most likely be granted. If you request a costly accommodation from a very small business, it may be considered an undue hardship since smaller businesses have less financial resources.

Talk to an Employment Attorney

An employment attorney can answer any questions you may have about a disability or reasonable accommodation. If you think you have faced illegal disability discrimination, contact a KM&A employment attorney today. Our attorneys have experience representing clients across Pennsylvania in complex discrimination cases. Call Pittsburgh at  412-693-6096 or Philadelphia at 610 298-1746. You can also email us at lawyer@lawkm.com. It is our philosophy that, in order to aggressively pursue your interests, we have to be extremely accessible. Don’t hesitate to contact us for a free and immediate consultation.