What Is a Reasonable Accommodation, and How Is It Determined?

What Is a Reasonable Accommodation, and How Is It Determined?

Reasonable accommodations are changes to workplace policies or a job environment that would allow a disabled worker to do his or her job. They are determined by examining your needs arising out of a disability and what the employer is able to provide. The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law impose slightly different obligations regarding reasonable accommodations. Generally, however, accommodations are only reasonable if they don't generate an undue hardship for an employer. You might have a claim for damages if your employer denied you a reasonable accommodation. At Phillips & Associates, our experienced New York City disability discrimination lawyers may be able to represent you if your employer improperly denied you a reasonable accommodation, or retaliated against you for making such a request. Our team regularly litigates cases arising out of failure to provide reasonable accommodations on behalf of disabled workers.

What Is a Reasonable Accommodation Under Federal Law?

The ADA prohibits disability discrimination, which can occur when an employer takes an adverse employment action against a worker due to his or her disability. It also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for disabled workers when doing so wouldn't pose an undue hardship. Reasonable accommodations are any changes to the workplace, or how you do your job, that would allow you to enjoy equal job opportunities as a person with a disability.

Reasonable accommodations can include changes to the environment or policies of the workplace, such as:

  • Light duty
  • Shift changes
  • More frequent rest breaks
  • Leave
  • Equipment or aids
  • Modification of job duties
  • Provision of reserved parking
  • Reassignment to a vacant position
  • Changes to tests or training materials.

To qualify for a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, you must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially restricts one or more major life activities. Whether our lawyers can show that an accommodation was reasonable changes according to:

  • Specific job and duties
  • Job environment
  • Company's operations
  • Extent to which the disability impacts your ability to do your job
  • Size and resources of the company
  • Job environment.

Failure to provide reasonable accommodation may be disability discrimination. However, each request an employee makes for a reasonable accommodation for a disability is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Your employer only needs to accommodate disabilities it is aware of, so you may need to disclose your disability to get the accommodation you need. Once made aware, your employer is supposed to engage in a good-faith interactive process with you to find an effective solution to meet your needs. Your employer does not need to give you the specific accommodation you request, but it does have to discuss it with you.

If your disability isn't readily apparent, your employer can request medical documentation from your doctor to confirm you need the accommodation, and the extent to which you need the accommodation. However, to be considered qualified for a job such that you should be accommodated under the ADA, our attorneys will need to show you are able to perform essential job functions, with or without the accommodation.

Essential functions are job duties that are fundamental to performing the position; they may be why the job exists. Some of the factors a federal court would consider when determining the essential functions of a job, for purposes of determining whether you could perform those essential functions are

  • Professional expertise or skills needed to perform essential functions
  • Whether other employees are also available to perform those same duties
  • Whether the job exists so those functions can get done.

What Is a Reasonable Accommodation, and How Is It Determined Under State Law?

Disability discrimination is prohibited under the New York State Human Rights Law. Under state law, your employer should provide reasonable accommodations for your disabilities if accommodations allow you to perform your job duties reasonably. These accommodations can include:

  • Acquisition or modification of equipment
  • Support services if you have impaired vision or hearing
  • Modified work schedule
  • Provision of an accessible workplace

Whether an accommodation is a reasonable one hinges on balancing certain factors:

  • The benefit or efficacy provided by the accommodation towards removing the impediments caused by the disability
  • The reasonableness or convenience of the accommodation as opposed to others accommodation options.
  • Any hardships or problems the accommodation may cause for the employer or other employees.

Similar to federal law, your employer won't be required to provide you with an accommodation if it would present an undue hardship to the company. Factors the court should look at to determine whether an accommodation would pose an undue hardship include:

  • Overall size of a business or program with regard to budget, number and type of facilities, and number of employees
  • The type of operation in which the company is engaged, including workforce structure
  • The nature and cost of the accommodation.

What Is a Reasonable Accommodation, and How Is It Determined Under City Law?

The New York City Human Rights Law covers employers with at least 4 employees. It provides that your employer should provide you with a reasonable accommodation for your disability that would allow you to satisfy essential requisites of a job or enjoy rights, provided that your disability is known, or should have been known, by the employer. Under this law, your employer should engage in a cooperative dialogue with you about reasonable accommodations and also issue a written determination regarding the accommodation request. Your employer has an affirmative duty to engage you in this dialogue, once you put it on notice that you may need an accommodation, even if you haven't expressly asked for an accommodation yet.

Hire Us to Pursue Your Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

If you're wondering what the disability discrimination laws cover in New York City workplaces, you should call our seasoned employment discrimination attorneys. Phillips & Associates is a plaintiff's firm fighting for disabled workers in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx, Nassau County, or Suffolk County. Call us at (866) 229-9441 or complete our online form for a free consultation.

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