What Are ADA Reasonable Accommodations in Employment?

ada reasonable accommodations

Provisions in Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibit discrimination against workers with disabilities in employment practices. An employer must make reasonable accommodations to enable a qualified individual with a disability to perform essential job functions or to have the same privileges as employees without a disability. ADA reasonable accommodations include a broad range of changes or adjustments that an employer may be required to provide.

Congress originally enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 and subsequently adopted the ADA Amendments Act in 2008 to clarify issues that arose in court decisions after the initial adoption. References to the ADA in this discussion reflect the current statutory provisions, as contained in both the original Act and the ADAAA.

When Does the ADA Apply?

Title I of the ADA, which contains the employment provisions, applies to any employer with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments, employment agencies, labor organizations, and labor-management committees. The federal government, corporations wholly owned by the federal government, American Indian tribes, and bona fide tax-exempt private membership clubs (except labor organizations) are also exempt.

The ADA provides employment protection for individuals with a disability, which is defined in the Act as:

  • a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities,
  • a record of such an impairment, or
  • being regarded as having such an impairment

Individuals who meet the first two requirements are entitled to reasonable accommodations in employment. Persons who meet only the third criteria are not. Minor and transitory (lasting six months or less) impairments do not qualify as a disability. The ADA and resulting regulations include detailed provisions relating to the meaning of the term disability.

A person must be qualified to perform the essential functions or duties of a job, with or without reasonable accommodation, to be covered by the ADA provisions. That means the person must have the necessary education, experience, training, skills, or licenses that the employer requires for the position and be able to perform the fundamental job duties, with or without reasonable accommodation.

The ADA entitles a qualified person with a disability to reasonable accommodations at all stages of the employment, beginning with the recruitment process. ADA Title I covers all other aspects of employment as well, including hiring, training, work assignments, pay, benefits, promotions, layoffs, firing, leave, and other employment practices.

What Constitutes a Reasonable Accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is a modification, adjustment, or alteration that permits a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process, perform essential work duties, or enjoy the privileges and benefits of employment afforded to employees without disabilities. Appropriate reasonable accommodations depend on the specific circumstances and may include many types of changes in the job, work environment, and employment practices, such as:

  • Acquiring or modifying equipment or devices
  • Providing qualified interpreters or readers
  • Modifying the work schedule
  • Making the workspace physically accessible and usable
  • Restructuring the job
  • Modifying policies, training materials, or examinations
  • Reassignment to a vacant position
  • Other similar accommodations

The ADA requires an employer to provide a reasonable accommodation to a qualified applicant or employee unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would create an undue hardship that requires significant difficulty or expense. In the event of undue hardship, the employer must give the employee the option of providing the accommodation themselves or paying for the portion of the expense that causes undue hardship on the employer.

While the ADA reasonable accommodations are required in appropriate circumstances, it does not require an employer to hire a qualified individual with a disability if the person poses a direct threat (significant risk of substantial harm) to the health or safety of themselves or others. However, the employer must determine whether a reasonable accommodation can eliminate the risk or reduce it to an acceptable level.

An applicant or employee with a disability has the responsibility of informing the employer that an accommodation is necessary. The reasonable accommodation requirement only applies when the employer is aware of a person’s need for an ADA reasonable accommodation.

How to Enforce Reasonable Accommodation Rights

If you think an employer has violated the ADA reasonable accommodation requirement, you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which has a field office in Kansas City. The EEOC works with the U.S. Department of Justice to enforce the ADA employment provisions.

Individuals have the right to pursue remedies for violations of the ADA on their own, in addition to the enforcement procedures provided by the government. Getting assistance from a private employment law attorney may result in more expeditious resolution of the problem.

Schedule a Consultation with Our Kansas Employment Law and Litigation Lawyers

Our employment law and litigation attorneys at Sloan Law Firm assist clients with matters relating to the provisions of the ADA reasonable accommodation provisions, as well as other federal and state employment laws and regulations. We invite you to talk with us about any issue involving employment law or litigation by contacting us to schedule a consultation.