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What Is Reasonable Accommodation?
A reasonable accommodation is an adaption or modification that is made — by an employer or another party — to meet the needs of a person with a disability (or a person's religious beliefs) that does not lead to undue hardship or jeopardize safety.
Reasonable Accommodation in the Workplace
Reasonable accommodation is an employment law concept defined under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A reasonable accommodation is an adjustment that is made to job tasks, the work environment, or the application process in order to allow an individual with a disability to perform essential functions of the job to the same extent as a person without a disability.
In order for accommodations to be considered “reasonable," they cannot create an undue hardship or a direct threat to the employer or other employees.
Examples of Reasonable Accommodations in the Workplace
- Physical changes to the workplace such as installing a ramp or making a restroom accessible
- Technologies that provide accessibility and assistance such as screen reader software or videophones
- Communications policies that are accessible like offering sign language interpreters, or large print or Braille materials
- Other policies furthering accessibility such as allowing service animals in the building or allowing work schedule adjustments
Relevant Laws and Court Cases
- Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Titles I and V
- United States v. Virginia Elec. & Pwr. Co., 365 U.S. 624 (1961): Employee sued after employer refused to make workplace smoke-free to accommodate employee's pulmonary disability. Court ruled that a reasonable accommodation would be adding fans, air purifiers, and smoke-free sections of the workplace, not making the entire workplace smoke-free.
- Eisfelder v. Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources, 847 F. Supp. 78 (W.D. Mich. 1993): Employee with multiple sclerosis required time off from work for surgery but was fired instead. Court ruled that allowing the employee to slightly modify her work hours and use two months of accumulated annual leave as she had requested would have been a reasonable accommodation.
- Vande Zande v. State of Wis. Dept. of Admin., 851 F. Supp. 353 (W.D. Wis. 1994): Court held that employer made significant efforts to reasonably accommodate a paraplegic state employee by allowing the employee to work from home on a temporary basis, purchasing customized furniture for her, allowing her to modify her schedule, and making office facilities accessible.
- Guice-Mills v. Derwinski, 772 F. Supp. 188 (S.D.N.Y. 1991): Court held that: "When an employer offers an employee an alternative position that does not require a significant reduction in pay or benefits, that offer is a reasonable accommodation as a matter of law."