Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employees with physical or mental disabilities are protected from discrimination in the workplace, one being reasonable accommodations to perform the essential functions of the job. Federal law requires that employers who have 15 or more employees are required to provide reasonable accommodations for disabled employees. Individual state and local laws, however, may require employers with less than 15 employees.
The ADA defines individuals with disabilities as having a physical or mental impairment that limits daily activities or function of life. This definition includes individuals who have a history of or are perceived as having a disabling impairment. New Jersey law further defines a disability as having a physical impairment, disfigurement, infirmity, or malformation due to a birth defect, injury, or illness.
Reasonable accommodations are any adjustments to the application and hiring processes, job duties, performance, or modifications to the workplace in order for a qualified disabled employee to perform the essential functions of the job position and employment opportunities. Job duties that are fundamental to the position are considered essential functions, such as:
- The job position specifically performs essential functions.
- The number of available employees to perform the same functions.
- The skills or expertise necessary to perform essential functions.
Employers determine whether or not an accommodation is reasonable based on the position the employee holds, how the disability affects their performance, and their physical work environment. The types of accommodations generally considered reasonable include:
- Revising the position’s duties.
- Improve the workplace accessibility.
- Modification of test and training materials.
- Adjust or provide alternative products, equipment, or software.
- Provide an aide or service for better accessibility.
- Permit flexible work schedules.
- Reassigning employee to a different, vacant position.
If a request for accommodation is reasonable, both federal and state laws require employees grant it as long as the accommodation does not cause financial or logistical strain to the employer and operations.
What Are Common Reasonable Accommodations?
Employees with physical or mental disabilities can request reasonable accommodations in order to successfully carry out their job duties, such as a different style of desk or enlarged workspace to accommodate use of a wheelchair. Other common reasonable accommodations include:
- Accessible parking: Employers may add additional handicap spaces closer to the building, or modify their reserved parking practices to provide closer access to the building for employees unable to walk long distances.
- New equipment: Employers may provide additional or alternative equipment to make tasks easier for employees, such as installing screen-enlarging software for employees with visual impairments.
- Job reassignment: In some instances, reassigning an employee to a different vacant position if the employee can no longer perform the tasks of their current position. The employee must be qualified for the position, and employers are not required to create a new position or transfer or terminate another employee to make a position available.
- Service animals: The employer may revise policies in order to allow disabled employees requiring a service animal to bring the animal to work.
- Alternative formats: Employers may provide alternative formats of relaying information to employees to communicate better through a certain format, such as providing feedback in writing rather than verbally.
- Job reorganization: Employers may provide additional avenues to help an employee complete their assigned tasks, such as providing an intellectually disabled employee with a checklist for task completion.
Employers who fail to provide reasonable accommodation requests from disabled employees are violating state and federal laws and therefore may be liable for a discrimination claim. Keep in mind when filing a request, however, that not all disabilities are obvious to your employer or others. In such cases, your employer may ask for medical documentation from your health care provider as confirmation before granting the request. Asking for medical confirmation before granting the request is not a violation nor grounds for a discrimination claim.
Cherry Hill Employment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Advocate for Clients Requesting Reasonable Accommodations
Disabled employees have a right to request a reasonable accommodation to their position or workplace environment in order to successfully complete their job duties. If your employer has denied your reasonable request, one of our Cherry Hill employment lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. can help you fight back against disability discrimination. Call us at 215-569-1999 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Cherry Hill, Haddonfield, Marlton, Moorestown, and Mount Laurel.