If you require an accommodation for a disability at work, all you legally need to do is make your employer aware of your need. This should start an interactive process where you and your employer work out an agreement to provide you with adequate accommodation to meet any challenges a disability may present.
If your employer denies any form of accommodation for your disability, they must have a substantial reason for doing so. Typically, this means that accommodation for a disability would present the employer with undue hardship. That, however, is often a high bar for employers to meet, and they risk liability in a disability discrimination lawsuit for failing to provide accommodation.
Does a Request for Reasonable Accommodation Have to Be in Writing?
No. Although an employee may choose to submit a written request for disability accommodation for their own records, there is no legal requirement for a written request.
Verbally expressing your need for accommodation for a disability is acceptable. You don’t even have to use the words “reasonable accommodation” – disclosing a disability and your need for accommodation, however you choose to do so, is all that’s required.
Should I Expect My Employer to Anticipate My Need for Accommodation?
Not necessarily. Some disabilities or need for accommodation aren’t apparent, and employers can risk liability for disability discrimination if they ask questions about an undisclosed disability protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
If you require accommodation for a disability, it’s your responsibility to start the conversation. Once your employer becomes aware of your need, there should be a good-faith attempt to develop reasonable accommodation for your disability. That said, your employer may initiate the conversation if you have a disability that is apparent, such as one that requires you to use a wheelchair. In this case, your employer can ask if you need accommodation.
What Is Considered an Undue Hardship on My Employer?
Undue hardship means that implementing a request for reasonable accommodation would significantly and adversely impact an employer. If any proposed accommodation is unduly extensive, substantial, or disruptive, your employer may be legally permitted to deny your request if you file a lawsuit for disability discrimination.
Do I Have to Pay for Any Reasonable Accommodation?
No. Employers are responsible for any costs associated with purchasing special equipment or making arrangements for reasonable accommodation. It cannot be the employee’s responsibility to afford these expenses.
Sometimes, however, accommodation is expensive. If an employer disagrees with an expensive option for accommodation, they can offer a more cost-effective alternative. If implementing reasonable accommodation at any cost is unacceptable to an employer, they must prove in court that it would be an undue hardship when considering the company’s economic resources.
What Should I Do If My Employer Denies My Request for Reasonable Accommodation?
If your employer denies your proposal for reasonable accommodation, ask if they would be willing to consider any alternative options. From here, you and your employer can amicably work out a solution that works best for you both.
If your employer refuses to implement any kind of accommodation for your disability, however, you should consult with a disability discrimination attorney. Because there are many free or cheap ways to accommodate most disabilities for many kinds of jobs, your employer might not have a sufficient reason to allege an undue hardship.
Your attorney can help you fight to get the reasonable accommodation you need from your employer in addition to any damages, such as lost wages, you may have incurred while lacking such accommodation.
Our disability discrimination attorneys can provide the legal support you need. Contact K2 Employment Law for help today.