Requesting Reasonable Accommodation to Your Disability

One of the most common types of complaints raised against employers under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and parallel state and local laws is the failure to offer reasonable accommodation to an employee with disabilities. In fact, employees who are having difficulties at work due to a disability should consider requesting such an accommodation —often a necessary predicate to asserting their rights under federal, state or local law.

Although it is frequently misunderstood, the concept of reasonable accommodation figures prominently into most aspects of disability discrimination litigation. One of the threshold questions in cases regarding improper termination or failure to hire is whether the plaintiff was able to perform the essential functions of the job in question either with or without reasonable accommodation. If a court or enforcing agency determines that such a reasonable accommodation was available, the next question is whether the employer offered to implement such an accommodation.

There is no precise definition for what constitutes a reasonable accommodation. However, it generally includes any modification of the employer’s premises, equipment or policies that would not be unreasonably expensive, burdensome or disruptive to the employer’s operation:

  • Installation of ramps and other accessibility features
  • Purchase of assistive equipment
  • Modification of work schedules
  • Reassignment to a vacant position if not prohibited by policies or seniority rules
  • Leave for doctor appointments

The requirement that an employer provide such reasonable accommodations usually does not come into play until the employee makes a request. Therefore, a disabled employee who is having trouble performing his or her job — or a disabled applicant who believes he or she needs an accommodation to perform the job he or she is seeking — should not hesitate to request an accommodation from the employer. While the employer is not obliged to give you the exact accommodation you request, the refusal to attempt any accommodation is often actionable under federal, state and NYC employment laws.

 

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