New York City Discrimination Attorneys helping Americans with Disabilities

The Discrimination Attorneys at the DEREK T. SMITH LAW GROUP, PLLC handles many cases that involve disability discrimination. For further information, please feel free to call us at 212-587-0760 or toll-free at 1-877-469-5297, or click here to contact us online.

To qualify for protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a person must be able to perform the essential job functions of the position he is employed in (or the position he applied to) with or without reasonable accommodations. A description of essential job functions and types of accommodations may be found elsewhere on this website. The reasonableness of an accommodation is determined by balancing the benefits of the accommodation against the costs associated with creating and maintaining the accommodation.

In practice, courts have held that a plaintiff bears the initial burden of producing evidence that an accommodation is reasonable by establishing that the costs of an accommodation do not clearly exceed its benefits. Once a plaintiff meets this light burden, the burden shifts to the defendant employer to show that that the accommodation would be an undue hardship. If the accommodation would create an undue hardship, then it will not be considered “reasonable” under the ADA. Sch. Bd. of Nassau County, Fla. v. Arline, 480 U.S. 273, 287 n. 17 (1987).

Although the burden of proving that an accommodation is not clearly unreasonable is light, the cost/benefit balancing is not an automatic victory for plaintiffs. Indeed, courts have identified a number of unreasonable accommodations based on the cost/benefit balancing, including: (1) the elimination of an essential function of a position; (2) the assignment of additional workers to assist an employee with essential functions; (3) an indefinite leave of absence for a disabled employee; (4) giving the employee an unearned seniority status; and (5) forcing other employees to give up rights.

If the employee satisfies his initial burden of showing reasonableness, then the employer must show that the relevant accommodation would constitute an undue hardship. To determine whether an accommodation would create an undue hardship, courts will consider three primary factors.

First, the court will consider the total cost of the accommodation, taking into account tax credits, tax deductions, and other sources of outside funding. The lower the actual cost of an accommodation, the less likely it will be considered an undue hardship.

Second, the court will consider the financial and personnel resources of the employer, including the number of facilities, and the types and locations of such facilities. The more resources available to an employer, the less likely a given accommodation will be an undue hardship. It is important to note that, if looking at an employer’s resources would paint an inaccurate picture of potential hardship (such as where an independently owned franchise would be required to install expensive equipment), then courts will look only at the resources of the facility required to make the accommodations.

Finally, the courts will consider the nature and locations of the facilities. If an accommodation would frustrate the purpose of a facility, then such accommodation is more likely to be considered an undue hardship. For example, if a movie usher could only perform his duties under bright lighting, a court would likely conclude that the maintenance of bright lights in a movie theater would be an undue hardship.

The DEREK T. SMITH LAW GROUP, PLLC handles many cases that involve disability discrimination. For further information, please feel free to call us at 212-587-0760 or toll-free at 1-877-469-5297, or click here to contact us online.

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