The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) is a federal civil rights law that went into effect in 1992. It prohibits employers from harassing and discriminating against workers who have disabilities. It also helps those with disabilities avoid discrimination in other areas of their life as well, such as in stores, hotels, and restaurants. It also protects them from discrimination from state and local governments as well.
Title I of the ADA focuses on employment for those with disabilities. This law includes provisions that require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees so that the employees can do their jobs effectively despite any limitations that they might have. Failure to make these reasonable accommodations is a violation of federal law, and employees can contact an employment lawyer and file a claim under the ADA if they feel that their employer is not accommodating them effectively.
Who is Covered by the ADA?
It is important to note that the ADA covers most employers, but not all of them. Some smaller employers will not be affected by the ADA, but there may be state or local laws that offer protection for those with disabilities.
The ADA helps “qualified employees with disabilities.” That means that the disabled employee must meet the experience, skill, education, or other job-related requirements that their employer may have. The employee must be able to fulfill the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. The ADA also has a specific definition for someone who is considered disabled as well. If you are not sure whether you would be considered disabled under the ADA, an employment lawyer can help you make this determination.
What is Reasonable Accommodation?
An employer is required to make reasonable changes to the workplace to fit the needs of their disabled workers. These changes are generally referred to as “accommodations” under the ADA. Accommodations allow workers with disabilities to enjoy equal employment opportunities.
These changes, which are usually relatively minor, allow employees to fulfill their job duties despite their disabilities. A reasonable accommodation could be something as simple as making an item easier to reach for those who may be in a wheelchair, but it could also include much more drastic changes like adding ramps or widening hallways.
These drastic changes are often expensive and time consuming. When they are too expensive or time consuming, then the employer may argue that the accommodation is not “reasonable.” The employer must show that making the requested change for an employee would cause the employer or business an undue hardship.
Workers and Accommodations
Accommodations are often a creative solution that both the employee and the employer can agree upon. Examples of reasonable accommodations could include:
- Providing audio enhancement devices for those who are hearing impaired
- Part time or modified work schedules
- Using readers or interpreters to assist an employee
- Modifying exams or reading material
- Allowing additional unpaid leave for necessary medical treatment
- Reassigning the employee to a position that would fit their abilities better
- Restructuring job requirements to the employee
- Making existing facilities more accessible
There are occasions where employers may be unwilling or unable to make a specific change to accommodate their employees. Employees may need to be inventive to find a solution that works for both the employer and the employee. Before you start employment might be the best time to discuss an accommodation, but that is not always possible.
When is an Accommodation Considered “Unreasonable”?
Usually, courts will determine that an accommodation is unreasonable or is an undue hardship to the employer when it is prohibitively expensive or would require an accommodation that is very difficult. The size of the employer and how many employees it has is usually a consideration to decide whether an accommodation is unreasonable or not. Larger employers can likely handle higher costs that might be associated with an accommodation request.
Expense is usually the biggest factor, but the court might also consider whether the accommodation is disruptive or would otherwise require significant changes to the working environment. The Court might also consider how the change would affect other employees as well.
Contact The Brown Firm PLLC for Help from an Employment Lawyer
Most accommodations are surprisingly cost effective, even where an employer seems to indicate otherwise. Having an employment lawyer to help you assert your need for an accommodation is often extremely helpful. Although understanding employment contracts is important, there are many other employment laws which affect your career. You do have a private cause of action if your employer does not take reasonable steps to accommodate your disability. Contact the Brown Firm PLLC by sending us a message online or by giving us a call to discuss if you might have grounds for a lawsuit or to schedule a consultation.