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What is a reasonable accommodation in the workplace?

On Behalf of | Jun 3, 2021 | Employment Law

The Americans with Disabilities Act protects thousands of American workers from discrimination because of their actual or perceived disabilities. In Oregon and throughout the country, many employers are required to provide their workers with reasonable accommodations to assist disabled workers with doing the jobs they were hired to do. When an employer refuses to provide a reasonable accommodation to a disabled worker, that worker may have a claim against their employer under the law.

This post will discuss reasonable accommodations in the context of American workplaces. It will identify situations when employers may be allowed to deny accommodation claims. No part of this post offers legal advice and any reader who believes they may have a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act can speak with a knowledgeable employment law attorney about their potential case.

Accommodating disabled workers

Disabled workers provide invaluable services to their employers. Often, though, disabled workers require adaptive or accommodating equipment or policies to allow them to do their jobs well. For example, a worker in a wheelchair may require a different type of desk than their workplace counterparts so that they can appropriately and safely reach their workspace from their wheelchair.

The law does not provide strict definitions of what is reasonable and what is not. Instead, it gives employers an opportunity to challenge accommodation requests based on whether they impose undue hardships upon them. The next section will discuss what may constitute an undue hardship under the law.

Understanding undue hardships

When a request for a reasonable accommodation is made, an employer may look at the cost of providing the accommodation to the worker. Many factors other than cost can be considered as well to determine if an accommodation truly is reasonable for the specific employer. The number of employees working at the employer’s site, the cost of the accommodation, other options for accommodations, and other factors may all work into a determination of whether a requested accommodation is reasonable.

If an employer cannot afford to provide an accommodation based on appropriate factors, it may not have to provide it to their worker. It is important that disabled workers understand their rights under the law. Their employment law attorneys can help them with their cases if they believe they have been wrongfully denied reasonable accommodations at work.