Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled job applicants and employees. The ADA requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations in three different aspects of employment:
- Equal opportunity during the hiring process
- Performance of the essential functions of the job
- Equal enjoyment of the benefits and privileges of employment, such as training, services, and social opportunities open to all employees
Defining Reasonable Accommodations
Reasonable accommodations are modifications or adjustments to jobs, work conditions or environment, processes for getting work-related tasks done, or the hiring process. The purpose of reasonable accommodations under the ADA is to provide people with disabilities with the same opportunities as people without disabilities.
Some reasonable accommodations are minor and cost very little, whereas others are more extensive and cost more to provide. Examples of reasonable accommodations include:
- Physical modifications, such as installation of ramps and wheelchair-accessible restrooms
- Assistive technologies, such as computer screen enhancers and videophones
- Policy changes, such as allowing more flexible schedules to accommodate medical appointments or chronic illness or service animals to be present in the work environment
Not all people with disabilities require the same types of accommodations. Likewise, not all people with the same type of disability require the same type of accommodations. Reasonable accommodations also do not include providing personal assistive devices, such as glasses or hearing aids.
When Employers Must Provide Reasonable Accommodations
Employers covered by the ADA must provide reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants or employees if it would not present an “undue hardship” on their business operations. Individuals who are eligible for reasonable accommodations have known disabilities and can perform the essential functions of the job in question, with or without reasonable accommodations.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), undue hardship is an action that would require significant difficulty or expense when considering factors such as the employer’s size, financial resources, the nature of its business, and the structure of its business. An employer does not have to lower its productivity standards to accommodate a disabled employee; the disabled employee must still be able to perform the job’s essential functions at a rate equal to that of other employees.
An employer does not have to provide a reasonable accommodation until an employee or job applicant requests one. At that point, the employer and employee must have a conversation about accommodations that are necessary to allow the employee to do their job. If more than one accommodation would solve the problem, the employer is not required to choose the employee’s preferred accommodation. Instead, the employer is free to choose the reasonable accommodation that is less expensive or that it can more easily provide.
Reasonable Accommodation and Leave
Unpaid leave is a common type of reasonable accommodation that disabled employees may need, particularly if they are actively receiving medical treatment or suffering from symptoms related to their disability. An employer does not have to provide paid leave beyond that which it provides to all employees. It also can require that employees exhaust their paid leave before taking unpaid leave. Nonetheless, the employees are entitled to take unpaid leave related to their disabilities as a reasonable accommodation. Their employers must hold their jobs open unless it becomes an undue hardship. An employer also cannot penalize the employee in any way for taking disability-related leave.
Call Our Offices for the Help You Need with Your Employment Law Case
You can depend on us at Armstrong & Vaught, P.L.C., to assist you when you have been denied a request for a reasonable accommodation or are involved in another employment-related dispute. We regularly handle employment law issues and know what it takes to build a strong case on your behalf. Call us today at (918) 582-2500 or visit us online to learn more.