Every worker with a disability has the right to request reasonable accommodations from their employer. These accommodations may include modifications to the hiring process, the workplace layout, or job duties, which enable the employee to accomplish the essential functions of the position without any obstructions.
However, some employers may ignore or deny these requests despite federal regulations. Therefore, workers must understand their rights, since an employer’s refusal may be illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other relevant policies.
Before we dive into things, let’s start by improving your understanding of disability accommodation.
What Is Disability Accommodation?
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act National Network, accommodations are changes to the hiring process, operations, or work environment that allow a person with a disability to perform the central tasks of a job and enjoy equal employment opportunities. People also call these changes ADA accommodations or ADA reasonable accommodations.
Disability Accommodation Examples
Assuming that people with disabilities are otherwise qualified for a position, here are some examples of reasonable accommodations:
- Provide priority or reserved parking
- Adjust or provide equipment or software for better handling
- Change the presentation of training materials, announcements, and interviews
- Allow a flexible schedule for medical treatments
- Install ramps for wheelchair users
Though non-exhaustive, this list should give you a better idea of what you can expect from your employer.
What Is Reasonable Accommodation and Which Disabilities Qualify for It?
Accommodation requests are reasonable when they don’t place “undue hardship or direct threat” to the employer. Undue hardships can mean significant expenses or difficulty for the employer. Each request is evaluated on a case-to-case basis, going through a series of phases.
For example, the evaluating body can have different expectations for a multinational corporation and a local retailer.
The ADA considers anyone with a physical or mental impairment that substantially impacts their quality of life as disabled, even if the condition is temporary or recurring. This definition is only for legal matters and is not applicable to medical conditions.
How to Request for Disability Accommodation: 3 things to Keep In Mind
Making a request is the first step towards disability accommodation, where your employer determines if the ADA applies to your situation and needs. This can either be done verbally or through a formal document.
But according to the ADATA and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), there are a few things to keep in mind when requesting a reasonable accommodation based on a disability.
1. It must be related to a medical condition
For a request to count, it must pertain to an employee’s unique needs due to their disability.
A valid request is an employee asking for a new desk because the wheelchair doesn’t fit under the current one. An incorrect request is asking for a new chair because the current one is uncomfortable. The latter would not apply as reasonable because it’s not linked to the employee’s disability.
2. It doesn’t need to be official
While this is a legal matter, the request does not have to be “official,” mention the ADA, or the phrase “reasonable accommodation.” Furthermore, it doesn’t need to be in writing, though a paper trail may help clear up disputes should any occur.
For example, texting your employer that you have difficulty keeping to your current schedule because of necessary medical treatments counts as a request for accommodation and puts the employer on notice.
3. Your employer must acknowledge it
The laws require employers to acknowledge any formal or informal request, as long as they fit the given description. Note that this doesn’t mean employers must immediately fulfill your request, just that they acknowledge its receipt. They may, for example, reply to your message or post a memo.
What to Do When an Employer Ignores Your Disability Accommodation Request
Unfortunately, employers illegally ignoring or denying valid accommodation requests is common. These instances often leave employees feeling forgotten or ignored, posing serious consequences to their well-being. Here are some steps you can take to avoid these circumstances.
1. Contact your HR department
A short meeting with HR is usually all it takes to get your employer’s attention. Ensure you document any encounters related to your request should you need to take further action.
2. Contact your attorney
If the employer refuses to comply with disability discrimination laws, contact a disability discrimination lawyer. They can provide expertise and guidance, and lend credibility and authority to your request.
3. Contact the EEOC
The EEOC exists to protect workers’ rights. They can provide you with legal representation and walk you through filing a formal charge of discrimination.
4. File a charge
A formal charge requires compliance with statutory regulations concerning timeliness and employer investigation. Before proceeding with this step, you must clearly understand the process, which your private attorney or the EEOC can help with.
5. File a lawsuit
Filing a charge concludes at the state or federal EEOC office. Your next step is to take the matter to court and file a lawsuit. Your employer’s legal team may offer settlement offers, but litigation may be the only way to resolve your request fairly.
Leveling the Playing Field
Everyone has the right to equal job opportunities. By understanding your right to reasonable accommodation requests, workers with disabilities can work on a level playing field and achieve a fulfilling professional life.
For all legal concerns, get a free evaluation from Shegerian & Associates! We are experts on various legal matters, particularly employment and personal injury, and we would love to represent you.