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Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), discrimination can include an employer’s failure to make reasonable accommodations for applicants or employees who have physical or mental limitations that are known to the employer.  These accommodations must be provided unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operations of the business.  The following is a brief overview of these ADA requirements.

What is a Reasonable Accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions. Generally, a reasonable accommodation must only be provided if the disability is “known” to the employer, the disabled individual requests one, and the accommodation would not be an undue hardship to the employer.

What are examples of reasonable accommodations?

Accommodations can include restructuring a job, modifying work schedules, acquiring or modifying equipment, permitting the use of service animals, providing qualified readers or interpreters, or appropriately modifying examinations, training, or other programs.

How can an accommodation be an undue hardship?

An undue hardship is a significant disruption, difficulty or expense on the employer. Factors to consider include:

  • Nature and cost of the accommodation
  • Financial resources of the employer
  • Number of employees at the employer
  • Overall resources of the employer
  • Impact on operations

For which conditions must accommodations be made?

 Accommodations must be made for people with physical or mental impairments that substantially limit major life activities, such as seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, learning, caring for oneself, and working.  In addition to disabilities, accommodations must also be made for pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition and all aspects of religious observance.

How can an employer be found liable under the ADA?

An employer will be liable for the denial of a “reasonable accommodation” if the employee proves:

  • She has an ADA covered disability;
  • Her employer had notice of her disability;
  • A reasonable accommodation would permit her to perform essential functions; and
  • Her employer refused to provide accommodation.

The above is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice.  If you are an employer and are faced with an issue related to the above, please go through the “Contact Us” page on our website, or call (202) 795-9999.