Reasonable accommodation laws were put into place to allow employees with disabilities that qualify under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) a way to perform their essential job duties while at the same time not putting undue burden on the employer.
Many employers and employers are not well versed in what constitutes a reasonable accommodation, which often leads to intentional or unintentional discrimination based on disability.
Four things that must be taken into consideration when an accommodation is requested:
- Reasonable accommodation does not exempt an employee from performing essential job functions. If the employee still does not perform the job functions with reasonable accommodations an employer is allowed to discipline an employee accordingly including and up to termination. Disability does not excuse poor performance. It allows the person with the disability the opportunity to perform at the same level as a person without a disability. That being said, there are times when a person’s health can deteriorate to a point where accommodations will not be enough to meet the essential job functions, then that is an entirely different conversation.
- Reasonable accommodations must be effective above all. An employee can request a specific accommodation, but if there is a less expensive or more convenient alternative, as long as it is effective, the employer is within the acceptable guidelines of the law.
- The employer is obligated to promptly respond to the request. The actual implementation may take time, but the conversation needs to happen within a reasonable amount of time after the request.
- If there are performance issues, the employer can ask the employee if reasonable accommodations are required to help with job performance. Or if the employer can tell that there is a disability, it is acceptable to ask if the employee requires accommodation.
There are different types of reasonable accommodations:
- Restructuring a job- shifting nonessential job tasks to other employees or changing how a job is done are reasonable accommodations.
- Modified Work schedule- This can be as simple as modifying arrival or departure times or providing a work from home option. It can also involve providing breaks, structuring the work schedule a certain way, or providing additional unpaid leave.
- Policy modifications – If an attendance policy is written without taking into account a modified work schedule then the employer may also want to include a policy modification for workers with disabilities.
Other accommodations that are physical in nature are covered separately under the Americans with Disabilities Act. These include, but are not limited to access to and from the building, access to rest room facilities, access to workspace, and communication access.
You aren’t expected to know everything. That’s why places like, your local Center for Independent Living exist. Centers are an excellent resource for local technical assistance. Local businesses are encouraged to call and speak with the Executive Directors or Program Directors for more information. Great Lakes ADA Center is also a great resource for small business owners to answer questions about disability related issues involving the ADA and communication access. Everything you wanted to know about ADA compliance, but were afraid to ask.
More information can be found at the The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.