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Reasonable Accommodations in the Workplace

reasonable accommodations in the workplace

Living and working with a disability is challenging enough as it is. Facing discrimination in the workplace only makes it harder.

A disability does not make you any less capable of doing your job, as long as you have reasonable accommodations in the workplace. If you are disabled and your employer is not providing you with reasonable accommodations – or you did not get a job because a potential employer would not make reasonable accommodations – you may have a right to compensation.

If you believe that you’ve been a target of disability discrimination because your employer has denied you necessary and reasonable accommodations for a disability, contact us. At Cohen & Jaffe, LLP we know how to take on discriminatory employers.

Disabled Workers’ Right to Reasonable Accommodations

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects disabled workers in a number of ways. It obligates employers with more than 15 employees to provide disabled qualified employees and applicants with reasonable accommodations, unless doing so would lead to undue hardship. An undue hardship is a significant difficulty or expense. The employer is not required to modify the essential duties of the job. If, however, employers are able to make reasonable changes to accommodate employees, they are required to do so.

Employees with disabilities can request reasonable accommodations at any time through formal or informal channels. Healthcare professionals or family members may make requests on behalf of disabled individuals.

At that point, the employer should discuss possible accommodations with the employee as quickly as possible, and may ask for documentation of the disability (though this does not include submission to a medical exam prior to hiring).

An employer cannot exclude an applicant from the hiring process because that person will require reasonable accommodations. A business should assess accommodation needs separately from the hiring process.

What is a ‘Reasonable Accommodation’ at Work?

Though many individuals with disabilities are capable of performing a job in the same way as anyone other employee, there may be barriers that keep them from doing so. For example, some equipment might be impossible for certain employees to operate, but a simple design modification would make it completely accessible. An employee with a chronic illness may need a modified work schedule. A hearing disability might necessitate certain types of assistance.

These are all simple changes that do not disrupt the overall function of a workplace, and allow all of its employees to perform their duties. A reasonable accommodation falls under one of three categories:

  • A modification or adjustment to the work process that would allow a qualified applicant with a disability to perform the job.
  • A modification or adjustment to the work process that allows an already-employed qualified individual with a disability to perform the job.
  • A modification or adjustment that lets an employee with a disability enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment (training, services, cafeterias, etc.).

Establishing an Employer Failed to Make Reasonable Accommodation

The first important step is to establish that the worker is disabled, qualified to perform the job with a reasonable accommodation, and that the worker requested the accommodation (or that for some reason the employer ought to have initiated the process).

An experienced lawyer will compile all documentation pertaining to the worker’s disability, how he or she went about making the request and what kind of reasonable accommodation was requested.

If employers offered an alternative accommodation, they must be able to clearly show why this was a better option. If the alternative they implemented was ineffective, they have failed to provide a reasonable accommodation. If the employer claims that providing an accommodation would have caused undue hardship, they must demonstrate that hardship.

This is a common claim from employers, but in many cases, these employers are simply trying to shirk their responsibilities to their employees as outlined under the law. Showing that an employer could have found a solution that did not cause undue hardship, and didn’t do so, often means that the employer has violated the protections provided to disabled workers under the ADA.

Long Island Employment Discrimination Lawyers, Helping Victims

If you have suffered workplace discrimination due to a disability, we can help. We’ll help you navigate the processes of determining whether you meet the legal definition of disabled, determining whether your employer provided you with reasonable accommodations, and filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

At Cohen & Jaffe, LLP, we’re committed to upholding your rights, and we take the time to understand our clients’ unique needs. Contact us for a free case evaluation to learn more.

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