Reasonable accommodations: what every employer must know

One of your employees tells you they need a reasonable accommodation for their disability. So, what should you do? Call your employment lawyer. But before you pick up the phone, here’s some information to help you navigate the laws concerning reasonable accommodations. 

What is reasonable accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is a change to an employee’s job duties or working environment that allows them to perform the essential functions of their job despite their disability and without causing undue hardship to the company.

An employee with a disability or medical condition may request a reasonable accommodation to be able to continue to perform their job. The employer is required to engage in what is called an interactive dialogue to determine whether the accommodation requested or a different one that meets the employee’s needs can be provided without causing undue hardship to the company. 

Examples of reasonable accommodations include:

  • Providing more frequent breaks 
  • A shortened workday or work week 
  • A stool to sit on instead of having to stand all day 
  • Light duty 
  • Work from home 
  • A leave of absence 

Keep in mind that you do not have to provide every accommodation your employee requests. 

There are two tests to apply:

  1. Can the employee still perform the essential functions of the job with the accommodation? For example, a cashier or a waiter cannot work from home, but a computer programmer can. 
  1. Will the accommodation cause an undue hardship to your company? 
  • If your employee requests expensive equipment to be able to perform their job, the size of your company and its revenues will determine whether the equipment is too expensive and thus the accommodation unreasonable. 
  • If your employee requests to be assigned to a completely different position for which you do not have any openings or for which they are not qualified, you are not required to make such an unreasonable accommodation. 

How do I know if my employee is really disabled?

Should you be unsure whether your employee has a disability, you can certainly require medical documentation. However, by focusing on the reasonableness of the employee’s request rather than the validity of their disability, you will have a more inclusive, productive workplace and help prevent employee lawsuits. 

We know navigating these issues can be tricky. If you need help determining what constitutes a reasonable accommodation, Schedule a Strategy Session with us today. 

This blog is for informational purposes only. It is not offered as legal advice, nor is it intended to create an attorney-client relationship with any reader. Consult with competent local employment counsel to determine how the matters addressed here may affect you.

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