Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers with 15 or more employees are required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations are adjustments or modifications to a job or work environment that enable an employee to perform the essential functions of the employment position. A reasonable accommodation may include job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position, or acquiring or modifying equipment. It does not typically require the elimination of an essential function of a job, the displacement of other employees, or the creation of a new light-duty job.
The ADA does not require employers to provide accommodations that would cause an undue hardship, which is defined as an action that requires significant difficulty or an unsustainable expense. Additionally, the ADA does not require employers to provide accommodations that would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others in the workplace.
The purpose and intent of reasonable accommodations is to provide employees with disabilities an equal opportunity to enjoy the privileges of employment when they are capable of performing the essential functions of a position. Some specific examples of reasonable accommodations might include:
• Installing a ramp to make a workplace wheelchair-accessible
• Modifying a restroom so a worker with disabilities can use it
• Allowing a flexible work schedule
• Reassigning a qualified employee to a vacant position
The exact procedure for requesting accommodations under the ADA may vary by employer, but the burden is upon the employee to initiate the request. Employees must request accommodations by informing their employer of their basic disability and the need for an accommodation. The request should be made in writing and should include a description of the accommodation needed.
Upon notice of the request, employers must engage in an “interactive process.” The interactive process involves a discussion between the employer and employee to identify the employee’s limitations and how they impact the employee’s ability to perform the job. If needed, the employer may request additional information from the employee’s healthcare provider to determine the medical and job related conditions. Although healthcare providers might suggest specific accommodations, employers are not required to provide the exact accommodation requested by the employee if there are other effective accommodations that also meet the employee’s needs.