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Can employers refuse to support a worker with medical challenges?

On Behalf of | Apr 3, 2024 | Workplace Disability Discrimination

Plenty of people have serious medical conditions but still manage to acclimate to those challenges. Individuals with congenital conditions or acquired injuries sometimes need special consideration from their employers if they want to work. In some cases, workers may need assistance got some special forms of technology to perform their jobs safely. Other times, workers may request alterations to traditional job responsibilities, work-from-home arrangements or changes made to the facilities so that they can navigate the space safely.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations that are medically necessary for employees to perform their jobs when they have disabling medical conditions. But, exceptions apply to that requirement.

Can employers refuse to provide the accommodations a worker requires?

Some scenarios may limit employer responsibility

One of the most common reasons for employers to refuse accommodations requested under the ADA is that the business is too small for the law to apply. Typically, the employer obligations under the ADA only apply to businesses with at least 15 employees. Bigger businesses usually needs to offer reasonable accommodations when employees follow the right process to request that report.

However, a worker asking for accommodation that may need to follow certain company policies and provide medical documentation affirming the necessity of their requested accommodations. A worker who does not submit a written request or who does not have a written note from their position may find that their employer refuses to offer accommodations.

Finally, businesses can sometimes deny accommodation requests by asserting that meeting the worker’s needs to perform the job could generate undue hardships for the organization. A business with just 20 employees may not be able to afford the costs involved in remodeling a building, adding an elevator to an existing facility or purchasing expensive assistive technology.

Unless one of those three scenarios applies, a refusal to offer accommodations when an employee requires support to do their job could constitute disability discrimination. Workers with medical challenges often require help when trying to hold an employer accountable for disability discrimination. Evaluating the situation to determine whether a violation of someone’s ADA rights has actually occurred is a good starting point for those unable to get the help they need to do their job safely, effectively and without compromising their health.