HR Support on Reasonable Accommodation (ADA Laws)

Editor's Note: The duty to accommodate under the ADA is a requirement, not an option.

Melissa S. BurdorfOverview: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities, unless doing so would cause an undue hardship on the employer's business.

An employer's duty to make reasonable accommodations extends to all employment decisions, and it applies to job applicants and full- and part-time employees. Examples of accommodations include:

  • Readers or sign language interpreters;
  • Reallocation of marginal job duties;
  • Light duty (on the same basis that the employer offers it to similarly situated employees);
  • Telecommuting;
  • Modified training materials;
  • Different work schedule (e.g., different work hours, part-time schedule); or
  • Medical leave of absence.

There are times when an employer may be excused from providing an accommodation. However, each accommodation request is fact-specific and the reasonableness of an accommodation should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Employers should opt to work something out when an employee requests an accommodation due to a disability. An employer that meets with an employee and discusses accommodation possibilities (i.e., engages in the interactive process) will be in a much better position if it is sued for failure to accommodate.

Trends: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has entered into multi-million dollar settlements with employers that inflexibly and universally apply a leave limit policy (such as no-fault attendance policies) without looking at the reasonable accommodation requirements of the ADA.

An employer that has a leave policy that calls for the automatic termination of employees who exhaust a specified period of available time off is looking for trouble from the EEOC. The EEOC expects to issue revised guidance on the topic of reasonable accommodations and leaves of absence under the ADA soon.

The federal courts have been reviewing whether an employer must, as a reasonable accommodation, pass over a more qualified individual, and assign an employee with a disability to a vacant job position (so long as the employee with a disability meets the minimum qualifications for the job) unless the employer can show that it would be an undue hardship to do so.

The Supreme Court has not addressed this issue so employers will need to be guided by the law in the state in which their business operates.

Author: Melissa S. Burdorf, JD, Legal Editor

Latest items in Reasonable Accommodation

  • Pregnancy Accommodation Handbook Statement: New York City, New York

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    New York employers that have four or more employees, have employees working in New York City and that are seeking to inform employees, including supervisors, that the company will provide reasonable accommodations to New York City employees with needs related to pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • Pregnancy Accommodation Handbook Statement: West Virginia

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    West Virginia employers with 12 or more employees in West Virginia for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding year should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook

  • Disability Accommodation Handbook Statement

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    Employers covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and seeking to advise employees of their right to seek accommodations based on disability should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • Pregnancy Accommodation Handbook Statement: Maryland

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    Maryland employers with 15 or more employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding year are required to include this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • Delaware Now Requires Employers to Provide Pregnancy Accommodations

    Date:
    18 September 2014
    Type:
    News

    Delaware employers must provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant and nursing employees and job applicants under a new law enacted on September 9, 2014.

  • Date:
    09 September 2014
    Type:
    Legal Timetable

  • ADA PowerPoint Training Presentations Released

    Date:
    20 August 2014
    Type:
    Editor's Choice

    The presentations are designed to help train managers and supervisors about issues involving the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits employers from discriminating based on disability and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.

  • Disabilities (ADA): Wisconsin

    Type:
    Employment Law Manual

    In-depth review of the spectrum of Wisconsin employment law requirements HR must follow with respect to disabilities (ADA).

  • Inflexible Leave Policy Allowed Under Rehabilitation Act, 10th Circuit Rules

    Date:
    10 June 2014
    Type:
    News

    The 10th Circuit ruled in Hwang v. Kansas State University that an inflexible six-month leave policy is not discriminatory under the Rehabilitation Act and that asking for additional leave is not a reasonable accommodation.

  • EEOC: Sample Reasonable Accommodation Policies and Forms May Not Fully Comply With ADA

    Date:
    15 May 2014
    Type:
    News

    An informal discussion letter written by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in response to an employer's inquiry about the propriety of using sample reasonable accommodation policies and forms serves as a warning to employers about the inadequacy of such samples.

About this topic

Employer considerations once an employee or applicant requests a reasonable accommodation. ADA help for the HR professional.