Understanding “Reasonable Accommodations”

Disability discrimination is one of the most rampant and unchecked forms of discrimination in today’s society. It’s unfortunate when anyone from any walk of life is discriminated against at no fault of their own. We need to have more conversations about the way employers treat employees who have or develop disabilities.

We previously wrote about how the Americans with Disabilities Act protects you at work and one of the key elements to focus on is the “reasonable accommodations” your employer must provide. Some employers are already in violation of this requirement under the ADA based on policies alone. We want to dive deeper into this requirement to make it clear to employers and employees alike the type of protections owed to people with disabilities.

Defining Reasonable Accommodations

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act defines reasonable accommodations as “a modification or adjustment to a job, the work environment, or the way things are usually done during the hiring process.” It goes further to explain that these accommodations are required for “an individual with a disability to have an equal opportunity not only to get a job but successfully perform their job tasks to the same extent as people without disabilities.” These accommodations must:

  • Ensure equal opportunity in the application process
  • Enable qualified individuals with a disability to perform essential functions of a job
  • Make it possible for an employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment

Let’s look at each of those three accommodations and how employers often violate them.

Equal Opportunity Applications

Employers cannot refuse to hire someone purely because of their disability. This often happens because employers don’t want to do what’s necessary to provide certain facilities and other accommodations necessary when hiring an employee with a disability. To that, we say – tough luck. You’re required by law to fulfill these obligations to everyone equally.

What’s important to note is an employer can rule out any employee who is genuinely incapable of fulfilling the duties of a position. This must be reasonable, though. For example, if the job requires the lifting of large, heavy objects but the applicant has a disability that limits their ability to do so then the employer is not required to move forward with the application. If the person has a disability that does not impact their ability to lift heavy objects than they are owed equal consideration.

Enable Employees to Perform Essential Functions

Employers must provide the necessary facilities, tools, and resources for all individuals to perform a job. If someone starts with or develops a disability on the job, the employer cannot simply dismiss them. Instead, the employer must ensure the employee has the space and access to continue fulfilling their job duties.

For example, if someone is working on a production line where employees are generally standing to fulfill their duties but someone is no longer able to stand for long periods of time, the employer should provide them with a chair to continue their role. These accommodations cannot stop just because they’re difficult for the employer. As long as someone can still reasonably fulfill their role or another similar role the employer must permit them to do so.

Equal Benefits and Privileges

These rules aren’t just about ensuring employees have the ability to perform their duties at work. The ADA also requires employers to allow all employees to have the same benefits and privileges at work. This means providing the same benefits packages including insurance options, as well as allowing the same access to all areas at work such as break rooms, bathrooms, showers, and any complementary social rooms.

You aren’t just owed your job and the ability to do so but also the perks that come with working at a certain place of employment. Some employers will attempt to dismiss your need to take advantage of work perks simply because doing so would be difficult for them, but this is a direct violation of the ADA.

Policy Violations

Instituting policies that all employees must be able to work without restriction is not permitted under the ADA. Employers often think they can skirt laws and discriminate against employees as long as it’s a long-standing policy that applies to all employees.

These types of policies are explicit discrimination because, while the policy doesn’t specifically mention disabilities, it only actually prevents people who have disabilities from securing employment and fulfilling their roles. That’s textbook discrimination and instantly constitutes a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The only exception to any of the information in this article is when it would cause undue hardship to the employer. The ADA defines this as accommodations that cause financial hardship or are unduly disruptive to the work of others or fundamentally change the nature of the business itself. Outside of that, all employees deserve the same rights and opportunities regardless of their disabilities. If you feel like you’ve been discriminated against at work because of your disability, contact the Ralph Bryant Law Firm.

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Ralph Bryant Law Firm

Aggressive and Compassionate Legal Representation in North Carolina | With over three decades of experience in both state and federal courts, Attorney Ralph Bryant Jr. is committed to getting you justice. Our office is in Greenville, North Carolina, but we serve clients across Eastern North Carolina and in the Triad. Regardless of your legal situation, you can count on us to bring you the best legal advice and services in the region. We don’t care what your background is or what you need from us. Our goal is to help you take power back in your life through aggressive and compassionate legal solutions. There is always hope when you work with Attorney Ralph Bryant Jr.

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