If you are working and have a disability, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and comparable state and local laws may have your back. These laws require your employer to provide reasonable accommodations to help you do your job, which could mean changes to specific work tools, processes, or equipment.
What does reasonable accommodation mean?
Reasonable accommodations can include adjustments in the workplace that would help workers with disabilities perform their duties. Such changes are made to provide everyone with an equal opportunity to succeed in their roles. Otherwise, employees with disabilities may not be able to fulfill their job requirements.
The following are some common examples of reasonable accommodations:
- Adjusting work schedules to accommodate arrival and departure times or allowing more breaks
- Extending leaves for rest or recovery
- Modifying workspaces, work equipment and tools, and
- Captioning company videos and adding text-to-speech into training manuals
How to request a reasonable accommodation
Employers cannot outright ask if you have a disability when applying because that is illegal. Employers also cannot assume you have a handicap. If an issue impacts your job, you should notify your supervisor or Human Resources.
Tell them about your situation, the problem, and potential accommodations. An oral request is fine, but putting it in writing is best so that your request is documented and understood by all parties. Also, if a physician or psychologist has recommended specific reasonable accommodations, you should provide your employer with that recommendation.
In many situations, the law requires your employer to start an interactive dialogue. In this process, you and your employer will discuss your situation, the requested accommodation, and any other options if the employer cannot provide the requested accommodation.
Can employers deny a request?
Your boss can say no to your request if the change you need would cause undue hardship, meaning it would cost them significant money or be too difficult to fulfill. Very small businesses may not always have readily available resources for employees with certain disabling conditions.
Steps to take if your request is denied
An employer denying your request is not a direct violation of your rights. They may have a valid reason for doing so and might be open to discussing other options with you.
If you think your employer is acting unfairly, you may complain to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a state or local anti-discrimination agency, or ask for guidance from an employment law attorney. The law safeguards you from wrongful termination, discrimination, and retaliation. Still, handling this kind of situation alone can be intimidating, so looking for legal help may be beneficial.