Employers Must Accommodate Disabled Workers under the ADA

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in a wide range of both private business activities and public services.

Perhaps the most prolific provision of the ADA is Title I. Title I of the ADA addresses employers' treatment of disabled workers, including the general duty to provide reasonable accommodations.

Protections for Employees with a Disability

The ADA applies to all employers with more than 14 employees, including private businesses as well as all levels of government. Employment agencies and labor unions are also subject to the ADA.

Of course, the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of a disability in many aspects of employment, such as the application process, making hiring or termination decisions, setting compensation, and granting or denying promotions. Additionally, however, the ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for qualified workers or prospective hires.

So just what is a "reasonable" accommodation? The basic guideline is that accommodations are reasonable if they do not cause "undue hardship" to the employer's normal operations. What constitutes undue hardship varies on a case-by-case basis, but as long as accommodations are not disruptive to work activities, extremely difficult, or oppressively expensive (taking into account an employer's available resources), they are unlikely to be considered an undue hardship.

Reasonable accommodations are meant to level the playing field for employees with disabilities; they can take many forms. For example, an employee with a long-term disease may need to leave work for periodical treatment sessions, a blind employee may need to be read important postings displayed at a workplace, or an employee confined to a wheelchair may require the installation of a ramp in order to make his or her workplace accessible.

Employees Should Take the First Step

Although employers must undertake reasonable measures to address the needs of their workers with disabilities, they are usually under no obligation to make accommodations until asked to do so.

If your disability is making your job an unreasonable challenge, contact an employment attorney today. Your attorney can help you request a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, and will ensure that your employer responds appropriately to your needs.