The American Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of their disability. To be considered disabled under the ADA, you must have “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities” be a person who has a record or history of such an impairment, or be a person that is perceived to have such an impairment.
Title I of the ADA requires employers who have 15 or more employees to provide equal opportunities to qualified individuals with disabilities. For example, under Title I employers are prohibited from discriminating in hiring, recruitment, training, pay, and other employment privileges. Title I also prevents questions that an employer can ask about a prospective employee’s disability before the job offer is made. It also requires that employers provide reasonable accommodation to the known qualified individual with disability unless it creates undue hardship for the employer.
How do you ask for a reasonable accommodation?
All you need to do is to let your employer know that you need an adjustment or change at work due to a medical condition. Employees may use “plain English” and need not mention the words “reasonable accommodation” or ADA. Additionally, requests can be made orally and do not need to be made in writing. Nevertheless, documenting things are always a good idea in the event you face problems in the future.
What are types of reasonable accommodations?
Any kind of modification to the work environment or adjustment as to how a job is performed that may include: restructuring the job position, modified work schedules, making facilities accessible, modifying equipment, providing qualified interpreters, reassignment to a vacant position. Examples of this would be if an employee who works the cash register has a physical disability and needs to request a stool to sit down while working. Another example might be a deaf employee who a TTY service to answer the phone. These are all examples of “reasonable” accommodations. Employers do not have to lower production standards, but employers do need to provide reasonable accommodations so the disabled employee can meet that standard.
Employers only need to provide accommodations that are reasonable and do not possess undue hardship to them. Thus, employers don’t need to provide accommodations that people use personally outside of work such as hearing aids or prosthetic limbs. They also don’t need to provide accommodations that would cause great financial difficulty to the employer or that would disrupt and fundamentally alter the business operation. For more information on reasonable accommodations under ADA, we recommend you read the EEOC’s page on enforcement guidance.
For employers: You should assess each reasonable accommodation request on a case by case basis and consult a lawyer for advice to make sure they are keeping in with the requirements of the law. This is essential to avoid liability and the expense of potential litigation.
For employees: If you do feel your employer is violating your rights under Title I of the ADA, complaints must be filed within 180 days of the date of discrimination, or 300 days if the charge is filed with a designated State or local fair employment practice agency. Individuals cannot file a lawsuit until they receive a “right to sue” letter from the EEOC.