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Exploring “undue hardship” in reasonable accommodations

| Apr 22, 2020 | Workplace Discrimination |

A recent discussion about reasonable accommodations (“Reasonable accommodation: What does it look like?” March 23, 2020) may have brought up some additional questions for you. For instance, you may need a better understanding of what “undue hardship” means as you work to get the reasonable accommodation you need in order to perform your work duties.

Some employers here in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area may claim that providing you with what you need in order to work would put too much of an economic or logistical burden on the company. You do not necessarily have to accept that answer. The first step before going back to your employer is most likely formulating an argument that your employer could make an accommodation for you without it causing an undue hardship.

When does a reasonable accommodation request rise to undue hardship?

Your employer cannot dismiss your request without first making some determinations, such as the following:

  • The nature and cost of the accommodation you request
  • The impact your requested accommodation will have on how the facility operates
  • The financial resources your employer has available
  • The effect your accommodation would have on the resources and expenses of your employer
  • The number of people your employer has on the payroll
  • The industry and type of operation your employer controls
  • How the company structures its workforce and assigns functions to each employee

A simple example of how the above work together would be a grocery store asked to make a reasonable accommodation for a cashier who cannot stand all day due to a disability.  The grocery store could provide the cashier with a swivel stool, and assistance from a bagger, which would allow the cashier to continue to perform the essential job duties.

However, just because the form of reasonable accommodation you requested may not work, it does not mean that another one will not fit your needs. Even if your employer can prove that a certain accommodation would create an undue hardship, you can negotiate and work with your employer to find another one that will provide you with what you need in order to succeed at your job.

You don’t have to fight for your rights alone

You know that you could do your job well if you had the means to do so. Whether you have already made a request for a reasonable accommodation that was denied or are about to make a request, it would probably benefit you greatly to consult with an experienced attorney first in order to make sure your employer cannot falsely claim undue hardship.