Work Life & Safety February 5, 2020

Reasonable Accommodation: What Everyone Needs to Know

Clarissa S., Editor

A reasonable accommodation is a change to a job or work environment that helps a person with a disability apply for or perform the duties of a job. They remove barriers that prevent people with disabilities from performing certain jobs. As a result, reasonable accommodations can make a workplace more inclusive, efficient and diverse. Whether you are an employer, an employee or a job applicant, it is important to know how reasonable accommodations are requested and provided in the workplace.

Examples of Reasonable Accommodations

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities; it also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants or employees with disabilities.

The following are common examples of reasonable accommodations:

  • Providing interpreters or readers
  • Modifying job duties
  • Providing flexible work schedules (e.g., telework)
  • Providing accessible technology

For more detailed information, see the QuickSeries® guide Reasonable Accommodation.

Guidelines for Employees and Job Applicants

If you are an employee or job applicant with a disability, you can request a reasonable accommodation:

  • At any time.
  • In plain English.
  • Even if you did not ask for one when applying for a job or after receiving a job offer.

The Process of Requesting Reasonable Accommodations

The process of requesting a reasonable accommodation from an employer usually follows these general steps:

  1. Firstly, you may let your employer know that a reasonable accommodation is necessary for a reason related to a medical condition.
  2. Your employer may ask you to provide documentation that supports this.
  3. After that, you may have an informal conversation with your employer to figure out the right accommodation.
  4. Finally, your employer may choose among different possible reasonable accommodations. However, he or she must choose one that is effective.
  5. You may choose to refuse an effective accommodation that you need to perform an essential job duty. In that case, however, your employer may determine that you're not qualified to remain employed in the job or to be hired for the job.

Guidelines for Employers

If you are an employer, you:

  • Should not view reasonable accommodations as special treatment.
  • Should identify a job’s essential functions. These are basic duties that an employee must be able to perform (with or without reasonable accommodation).
  • Must provide a reasonable accommodation if it helps a job applicant/employee perform a job’s essential functions. However, you don't have to eliminate an essential function.
  • Must provide a reasonable accommodation if it helps an applicant participate in the application process.
  • May ask whether an applicant will need reasonable accommodations related to the job after you make a conditional offer of employment. However, you may only do so if you ask all entering employees in the same job category this question.

For more details, consult the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC’s) Enforcement Guide.

For more information on work life and safety topics, browse the QuickSeries® library of guides, including Equal Employment Opportunity and Civil Rights in the Workplace

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