If you are an employee with a disability, you may be one of the millions in the U.S. who require reasonable accommodation to perform essential job duties. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), most employers are obligated to provide such accommodation upon request.
That last bit is important because employers aren’t required to ascertain if an employee with a disability needs accommodation – in fact, they could be engaging in disability discrimination by assuming an employee needs accommodation! If you require assistance to do your job, the responsibility to request reasonable accommodation is yours.
What Is Considered Reasonable Accommodation?
Before we address the specifics of how to request reasonable accommodation, let’s take a second to dissect what it is in the first place.
As previously stated, reasonable accommodation helps people with disabilities perform their essential job duties. “Accommodation” can be interpreted in a number of different ways, but the easiest way to think of it is any changes an employer can make to the employee’s situation at work. This can include permitting a work-from-home arrangement, providing a parking spot near the employer’s entrance, purchasing special furniture or software, or even exchanging non-essential job duties with another employee.
Employers are legally obligated to comply with requests for accommodation for a disability, but they can push back against those they believe are unreasonable and pose an undue hardship (such as a major business expense). Proving that accommodation would pose undue hardship is very difficult to do, so employers are typically keen to work out alternative accommodation with their employees.
In the vast majority of cases, reasonable accommodation often costs employers nothing or very little to implement.
Requesting Reasonable Accommodation
It’s not only important for employees to initiate a request for reasonable accommodation, but it can help to do so in writing. By making a written request, there’s a contemporaneous record of what the employee specifically requested and when, which could become useful should legal action take place in the future.
That said, there is no legal requirement to make a written request. There is also no requirement to invoke the “ADA” or “reasonable accommodation” specifically in any written or verbal request. Employees can simply tell their employers what they need to accommodate a disability and can expect to be covered by the ADA, even if they are unaware that they have this right.
What to Include in a Reasonable Accommodation Letter
If an employee chooses to draft a letter requesting reasonable accommodation, there is again no legal requirement of exactly how to word it or what information to include. Still, to increase one’s odds of success, certain information should be included regardless.
Here’s what to include in a reasonable accommodation letter:
- Name and job title
- Date of the letter
- Information about the disability (explaining how it affects one’s ability to work)
- Request for accommodation (which can include ideas if the employee knows what they need)
- Medical information (proof of your disability in the form of a doctor’s letter or other documentation)
After Requesting Reasonable Accommodation
When an employer receives an employee’s request for reasonable accommodation, they are required to work with the employee to come up with a plan, if possible. Ignoring or unreasonably delaying such requests is illegal.
Employers aren’t obligated to comply with any specific accommodation requested, but this should be a flexible and interactive process. This means that if an employer doesn’t prefer certain types of requested accommodation, they can offer alternatives that provide the same benefits.
Ultimately, though, employers can’t deny any request for accommodation unless it would pose an undue hardship. Again, this is not an easy thing for employers to argue in court, so many are keen to work with their employees until a solution is reached.
Should you face difficulty with an employer agreeing to provide any kind of accommodation, however, you can reach out to our attorneys at K2 Employment Law Group for help.
Get in touch with us today by calling (800) 590-7674 or by contacting us online!