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What types of accommodations are 'reasonable'?

Employers and employees alike should know that in general, it is unlawful to discriminate against people based on disability in the workplace thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act. This means that employees with disabilities are to receive the same job opportunities available to others during all stages of employment, including termination.

According to the ADA, any person with a disability should receive reasonable accommodations if necessary in order to perform the essential functions of their job and they should not be terminated or otherwise penalized for requesting these types of accommodations. However, many people fail to understand what types of accommodations are considered "reasonable."

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, accommodations are defined as adjustments or modifications that allow qualified workers with a disability to seek employment, perform job functions and enjoy benefits and employment privileges equal to other workers.

There are a number of accommodations that are considered reasonable, from seemingly minor adjustments like allowing a person to sit instead of stand on the job to more substantial modifications like installing or modifying equipment to facilitate job functions. If the request is feasible, effective and "seems reasonable on its face," it should typically be put in place, according to the EEOC.

However, this doesn't mean that every request must be fulfilled. If providing an accommodation would cause undue hardship on the employer or essentially eliminates fundamental parts of a person's job, it may not be considered reasonable.

In cases involving a disabled worker who is terminated due to inability to perform a job, the fulfillment of accommodations or lack thereof could be a significant factor in determining whether a termination was discriminatory and therefore wrongful. If an employer does not comply with a request for reasonable accommodations or fires a worker for making the request, that employee could have grounds to pursue a legal claim against the employer.

Often, the basis of these claims lies in whether a modification or adjustment is considered reasonable, so it can be crucial for all parties involved to have an attorney familiar with the legal complexities of the ADA.

Source: The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Enforcement Guidance: Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the Americans with Disabilities Act," accessed on Sept. 9, 2015

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