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Reasonable Accommodation for my disability?

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. I am having trouble performing my normal job duties. I think if my employer would make certain modifications, however, I might be able to continue to work. Can you tell me more about the laws regarding disability discrimination and reasonable accommodation.


Protections against discrimination for disabilities

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “The Americans with Disabilities Act gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion.”

The goal of this act is to reduce barriers for the disabled. More specifically, this act requires certain accommodations in employment, transportation, public accommodations, public services, and telecommunications. With these accommodations it’s believed that those who are disabled can continue to be effective contributors to society and lead fuller and richer lives, a benefit to all of us.

What are your rights under the American’s with Disabilities Act?

 If you are disabled it’s important to understand what rights you have under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, that your employer is barred from discriminating against you with regard to any of the following aspects of your employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment. Your employer and those you work with are also barred from harassing you (i.e., teasing, commenting, isolating or creating a hostile work environment).

If any of the above have occurred as a result of your recent disability, it’s important that you report the actions to a supervisor or your Human Resources Department. If the actions continue or they are not dealt with you can discuss your case with a lawyer or file a claim with the federal government.

Does my employer have to make reasonable accommodations for me?

Under the ADA covered employers are required to make reasonable accommodation for disabled employees so they can continue to perform their job, apply for a job, or enjoy the benefits and privilege of their job.

The caveat is that the ADA does not apply to all employers and reasonable accommodation only includes accommodation which do not create an undue hardship for the employer.

For example, your employer may deny your accommodations if they decide that the cost is too expensive or the modification is too difficult given the businesses size or company’s financial resources.

Unfortunately, given the subjectivity of undue hardship, the notion of reasonable accommodation can be a bit tricky. If you have questions regarding your request it’s best to discuss it with the Human Resource Department.

Steps to request reasonable accommodation

If you need reasonable accommodation you will have to make the request directly to your supervisor or your employer. Generally, it’s best to make the request in writing so there is a paper trail.

If you make a verbal request your employer may request that you make it in writing. You do not need to use the term “reasonable accommodation,” but it’s important to say enough that your employer can reasonably make a link between your physical or mental condition or disability and your request.

It’s also important to consider your request for reasonable accommodation as simply the first step in what may be an interactive discussion and process with your employer. Your employer, for example, may need to follow up your request with more discussion or request more information to determine whether your disability really entitles you to reasonable accommodation under the ADA.

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