Reasonable accommodations (RA) are adjustments made by employers or work environments to assist individuals with physical or mental disabilities. RA plays a big role in helping disabled individuals regarding issues relating to jobs such as job applications or enabling individuals to perform essential duties in their position.

However, providing accommodation does not mean altering or creating new positions for these individuals. Rather, RA focuses on creating an equal opportunity for all employees regardless of disabilities and providing necessary needs that are vital to operating the job.

Some examples of possible accommodations might include but not limited to the following;

  • making existing facilities accessible to disabled employees—for example, modifying the height of equipment, installing computer screen magnifiers, or installing telecommunications for the deaf
  • restructuring jobs—for example, allowing a ten-hour/four-day workweek so that a worker can receive weekly medical treatments
  • modifying exams and training material—for example, allowing more time for taking an exam, or allowing it to be taken orally instead of in writing
  • providing a reasonable amount of additional unpaid leave for medical treatment
  • hiring readers or interpreters to assist an employee
  • providing temporary workplace specialists to assist in training, and
  • transferring an employee to the same job in another location to obtain better medical care.

Keep in mind that other accommodations may also exist beyond this list. While reasonable accommodations are mandatory, the scope of accommodations is typically up to the employers’ decision. Decisions heavily rely on financial considerations when determining the possibilities of accommodation in a workplace. For example, if the company has to invest large sums of money for accommodations, the company could deny access to those accommodations.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA is a civil rights law that regulates and prohibits discrimination against workers’ disabilities. In other words, this act requires employers to provide necessary and reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities in order for them to perform their jobs.

Moreover, since 2001, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act have made more efforts towards extending protection rights to employees with disabilities. The efforts redefined what was originally provided by ADA such as;

  • Broadening the definition of “disability”
  • Describing different unlawful employment practices
  • Made new regulations for employers to comply in a time-sensitive manner

Click here to read our article on California Disability Benefits.

Am I Qualified to Receive Reasonable Accommodations?

Under the ADA, individuals have the legal right to receive an accommodation if;

  • They are working for an employer with 15 or more employees,
  • Have a disability or history of disability as defined in the ADA,
  • The disability requires accommodation

Although disabled individuals have the legal rights to receive a reasonable accommodation, they will not receive it until they ask for it. Meaning that individuals are required to make a request. For instance, if an individual with disabilities needs certain accommodations to perform their current job, but never requested accommodation and causes their overall capability to suffer, they can be at risk of losing their job.

Individuals that meet all of the ADA requirements for eligibility may request RA from employers. Moreover, in some cases, even individuals that do not meet all of the conditions may still want to discuss and make a direct request to their employer.

How Do I Request for Accommodation?

The process for requesting RA is straightforward. In accordance with the EEOC, employees only have to notify their employer of their need to adjust on the grounds of their disabilities.

Here are some examples;

  • Sarah notifies her employer, “I had an accident that requires me to be in a wheelchair for a month, I won’t be able to walk up the stairs”. This is considered a request for reasonable accommodation because there is a link between the change and her medical condition. In this case, her employer might provide a ramp at work
  • Karen notifies her employer, “I would like a new desk since this one is a little too tall for my preference.” This is not a request for reasonable accommodation. Although Karen is requesting a change, the change does not have any links to her medical condition. Therefore, it is insufficient for her employer to notice it as a request for reasonable accommodation.

Further, requests for RA are not required to be in writing so any form of communication is sufficient. However, it is always a good idea for employees to keep a record of their requests in writing in the case of any dispute. Employers are then expected to respond to the accommodation as soon as possible. Although there is no specific deadline that employers have to respond to, they may not ignore a request for reasonable accommodation.

Can My Request for an Accommodation Be Rejected?

In short, yes because although employers are obligated to provide employees with reasonable accommodations, there are limiting factors. An exception that may get a request rejected is if it causes “Undue Hardship” to the employer. This means that the requested change is of significant difficulty or puts a financial burden on the employer. Undue hardships may extend to the reason that the adjustments are disproportionately extensive, substantial, or disruptive. There are no guidelines for undue hardships. Hence, employers must determine this on a case-by-case basis.

However, the EEOC sets out some factors to help determine whether an accommodation would be deemed as undue hardship;

  • The nature and expense of the accommodation
  • The scale of the business in relations to its financial capabilities
  • Existing accommodation cost in the workplace

Negotiating Reasonable Accommodations

Employers may negotiate an accommodation in the case that their employer denies their request. There are a couple of reasons why an employer might deny a request. A common reason is the medical information provided might be insufficient to show the disability. In this case, employees can provide additional information to the employer. Another reason for the denial might be because the request might be deemed as an “Undue Hardship”. In this case, employers may choose to appeal by going up the chain of command. As for the last resort, employers can always file a complaint to the EEOC or state enforcing agency.

Contact Pride Legal

If you or a loved one has been looking to gain reasonable accommodations, we invite you to contact us at Pride Legal for legal counseling or any further questions. To protect your rights, hire someone who understands them.