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What is a reasonable accommodation for a disabled employee?

Legally, an employer has to provide reasonable accommodations for employees who suffer from disabilities when these disabilities do not entirely prevent them from doing their jobs. The accommodation allows them to continue working and being productive at the company.

So, what is a reasonable accommodation? It's a loose definition that applies differently from one case to the next, depending on the needs of the employees and ability of the employer. A few examples include:

  • Restructuring a person's job and/or responsibilities. A person confined to a wheelchair may be better served in a desk job, for instance, even if other workers are required to leave the desk and do physical labor at times.
  • Changing the person's work schedule. For example, a person may need daily treatment due to the disability, and he or she can only get it at 9:00 a.m., so the company may need to allow the person to come to work an hour late.
  • Making it possible for the person to use facilities that other employees use often, such as bathrooms, break rooms and the like.
  • Modifying the equipment used on the job or offering alternatives that the person with the disability can use.

The only reason that companies do not have to provide accommodations is when they are so extreme that they present an undue hardship for the business. This could mean the expense is too high or that making the changes is too difficult. The financial resources of the company are considered when determining undue hardship.

It is very important for workers who have disabilities to understand all of their legal rights, especially when they believe an employer has violated them, perhaps by firing the employee instead of making accommodations.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Facts About the Americans with Disabilities Act," accessed April 20, 2018

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