S. Amir Kohan

ADA “Job Accommodation”

Someone with a disability doesn’t necessarily need a job accommodation. Remember that we select people and place them in jobs if they are qualified for the performance of the essential functions, with or without a job accommodation. Someone with diabetes may have the disease under control with medication and proper diet. No accommodation would be required. However, if it were essential that the employee had food intake at certain times of the day, there could be a legitimate request for accommodating that
need. The employer might be asked to consistently permit the employee to have meal breaks at specific times each day. Job accommodations are situationally dependent. First, there must be a disability and an ability to do the essential functions of the job.

Next, there must be a request for accommodation from the employee. If there is no request for accommodation, no action is required by the employer. It is perfectly acceptable for an employer to request supporting documentation from medical experts identifying the disability. There might even be recommendations for specific accommodations, including those requested by the employee.

Once an accommodation is requested, the employer is obliged to enter into an interactive discussion with the employee. For example, an employee might ask for something specific, perhaps a new piece of equipment (a special ergonomic chair) that will eliminate the impact of disability on their job performance. The employer must consider that specific request. Employers are obligated to search for alternatives that could satisfy the accommodation request only when the specific request cannot be reasonably accommodated. This is the point where the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) can become a resource. It can often provide help for even questionable and unusual situations.

The employer must consider if making that accommodation would be an “undue hardship” considering all it would involve. You should note that most job accommodations carry a very low cost. Often they cost nothing. The larger an employer’s payroll headcount, the more difficult it is to fully justify using “undue hardship” as a reason for not agreeing to provide accommodation. Very large corporations or governments have vast resources, and the cost of one job accommodation, even if it does cost some large dollar amount, won’t likely cause an undue hardship on that employer.

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