Reasonable Accommodation for Federal Employees

MJPC
February 4, 2022

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals with disabilities who are employees or applicants for employment, except when such accommodation would cause an undue hardship.

A woman wearing headphones sits on  bed with two dogs and a black laptop

What is reasonable accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is any change to the hiring process, position, the way the job is done, or the work environment that allows a qualified person with a disability to perform the essential functions of that position and enjoy equal employment opportunities. If an accommodation does not create an undue hardship or direct threat, it is considered “reasonable.”

There are three categories of reasonable accommodations:

  1. modifications or adjustments to a hiring process that enable a qualified applicant with a disability to be considered for the position such qualified applicant desires; or
  2. modifications or adjustments to the work environment, or to the manner or circumstances under which the position held or desired is customarily performed, that enable a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of that position; or
  3. modifications or adjustments that enable a covered entity's employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment as are enjoyed by its other similarly situated employees without disabilities.

The responsibility to provide reasonable accommodation is a basic legal requirement because of the nature of discrimination faced by individuals with disabilities.

There are workplace obstacles that may keep others from performing tasks which they could do with accommodation, even though many individuals with disabilities can apply for and complete work tasks without any reasonable accommodations.

These obstacles can be physical barriers, like facilities or equipment that are inaccessible. They could also be processes or rules; examples include when breaks are taken, when work is performed, or how tasks are completed. For individuals with disabilities, reasonable accommodation removes these workplace obstacles.

Closeup of hands using an accessible keyboard

Reasonable Accommodation Examples

There are many possible reasonable accommodations that an employer may need to offer in connection with alterations to the work environment or adjustments in how and when a job is performed. Here are a few examples:

  • making existing facilities accessible
  • reassignment to a vacant position
  • adjusting tests, policies, or training
  • providing qualified readers or interpreters
  • job restructuring
  • modifying or providing equipment
  • part-time or modified work schedules

Some more examples of reasonable accommodation include:

Accessible Parking:

An employer changes its practice of only offering parking to upper management to allow an employee who is unable to walk long distances access to a reserved parking spot close to the building.

Provide Alternative Formats:

For an employee who communicates better through writing, a supervisor gives feedback in writing, rather than verbally.

Reorganization of the Job:

The employer provides a checklist to an employee with an intellectual disability to ensure task completion.

Equipment Change:

An employer provides software that magnifies the screen so that an employee with low vision can correctly read and enter information on the computer.

Service Animals:

In order to welcome an employee’s service animal, an employer may change their office’s “no animals” policy.

Reassignment:

In some cases, reassignment is the only reasonable accommodation. An employer may reassign an employee to an open position if the employee can no longer perform the essential functions of their current job.

The employer does not need to create a new position, no other employees need be transferred or terminated in order to create a vacancy for the purpose of reassignment, and the person with a disability ought to be qualified for their new position.

A black and white poodle wearing a service animal vest

When can a reasonable accommodation be denied?

The ADA does not require employers to make accommodations that would cause them an undue hardship. An undue hardship would be substantial difficulty or expense.

In order for an employer to show that a particular accommodation would present an undue hardship, they would have to demonstrate that it was too costly, disruptive, or extensive to be approved in that workplace.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency responsible for enforcing the ADA. The EEOC has proposed some factors to determine whether a particular accommodation presents an undue hardship on an employer:

  • the nature and cost of the accommodation
  • the financial resources of the employer
  • the nature of the business, including size, composition, and structure
  • accommodation costs already incurred in a workplace

It is usually difficult for employers to demonstrate that an accommodation is an undue hardship, and financial difficulty alone is not usually enough.

Courts will look at other sources of income, such as tax credits and deductions available for making some accommodations. They may also consider the disabled employee's willingness to pay for at least part of the cost of accommodation.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the ADA, along with state and federal laws, prohibits employers from discriminating against employees due to a disability. If your federal employer doesn’t give you the reasonable accommodation that you need, they are breaking those laws.

Did you make a request for a reasonable accommodation that was denied? Our experienced attorneys at Melville Johnson, P.C. could take a look at your case to determine if your employer is in violation of the ADA.

Our team of federal employment law attorneys, headed by our president George Johnson, who has over 35 years of experience assisting federal employees with cases like this, will provide exceptional service to you and your disability discrimination case.

Trust the oldest and most experienced federal employment law firm with your case and schedule your consultation with Melville Johnson, P.C. today. Give us a call or contact us using the form below to get started.

This blog and web site published by Melville Johnson, P.C. should not be used as a substitute for seeking competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney. Readers of this information should not act upon any information contained on this blog or website without seeking professional counsel.
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