Reasonable Accommodation – Americans with Disability Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that an employer provide a reasonable accommodation to disabled individuals to create equal employment opportunities for those who are otherwise able to perform their core job functions. However, the following condition must be met:

  1. The individual should be able to perform the essential job functions, with or without a reasonable accommodation
  2. An employer shall provide reasonable accommodations in all situations except when such an accommodation would create an undue hardship for the company.

Requesting Reasonable Accommodation

Persons with a disability can request a reasonable accommodation from their employer at any time during his/her employment, so long as, said individual is otherwise able to perform the essential job functions. Although it is best practice to have such a request documented, the request need not be in writing. A person with a disability may request an accommodation via e-mail, letter, or even a verbal discussion with the employer or supervisor.  Once the employer receives the request, the interactive process is triggered.

Engaging in the Interactive Process

The interactive process is used to determine whether an effective and reasonable accommodation is available for an employee under the ADA.

Generally, an employer’s duty to engage in the interactive process is triggered whenever it learns that an employee needs an accommodation. We strongly suggest that employers keep all information collected from employees about their disabilities and need for accommodations confidential.

The interactive process is mandatory and simply requires the employer work together with the employee with a disability to determine whether there is a reasonable accommodation available.

Types of Reasonable Accommodations

There are many accommodations that an employer may be required to provide. Reasonable accommodations may be, but are not limited to, an employer changing the way an employee performs their tasks or changing the work environment itself. The following are examples of some reasonable accommodations:

  • making existing facilities accessible;
  • job restructuring;
  • part-time or modified work schedules;
  • acquiring or modifying equipment;
  • changing tests, training materials, or policies;
  • providing qualified readers or interpreters; and.
  • reassignment to a vacant position

If providing a reasonable accommodation would create an undue hardship on the employer, the employer is not required to provide the accommodation. Unfortunately, California lacks case law that specifically details what an undue hardship is – simply that undue hardships are evaluated on a case by case basis. However, undue hardships usually involves any accommodation that would immense expense or difficulty for the employer.

Here are a few factors to consider when determining an undue hardship:

  1. the nature of the accommodation,
  2. the cost of the accommodation,
  3. the amount of financial resources the employer has,
  4. whether the employee will be able to perform essential job functions with the accommodation, and
  5. whether providing an accommodation will impact the operation of the organization.

It is important and recommended that the employer try its best to provide the requested accommodation, so long as the employee is able to perform the essential job functions and the accommodation would not create an undue hardship.

Jamal Jackson is an Associate Attorney with experience both advocating for clients under the ADA and in advising employers in navigating ADA compliance

Need advice navigating through ADA laws and compliance? Call us today for a free consultation (925) 609-7600