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What is reasonable accommodation?

Individuals who suffer from disabilities are fortunate to be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which offers a range of requirements employers must abide by. Not only does the ADA restrict an employer from discriminating against an employee with a disability, it also requires an employee to make "reasonable accommodations" to allow disabled employees to fully or near-fully participate in everyday activities.

The term "reasonable accommodation" is tricky, from a legal perspective. On one hand, it gives a great deal of leverage to disabled workers, granting them the right to be treated fairly in many circumstances. However, the term is very deliberately vague and entails that an employer is not obligated to undertake all accommodations for a disabled person, but only those that would not bring about an "undue hardship" for the employer.

The nature of a reasonable accommodation is intentionally broad, but it generally refers either to altering some element of the workplace to accommodate a disability, or altering an aspect of the job itself to make it more tenable for a disabled employee. Likewise, undue hardships are not well-defined by the law. In general, the courts are tasked with evaluating each individual case to determine how reasonable a proposed accommodation may be.

Even with a functional understanding of reasonable accommodations and undue burdens, it is not easy for a layperson to identify whether his or her experience violates his or her rights. If you believe that you have had your rights as an employee violated, it is wise to seek the guidance of an experience attorney. With proper guidance, you can more fully understand the nature of your situation, and proceed towards justice confidently, knowing that your rights remain protected.

Source: FindLaw, "The Employer's Duty to Accommodate," accessed Jan. 17, 2017

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