Business Owners: Do Your Company's Policies Align With ADA Requirements for Reasonable Accommodations?

2020 has just begun, and it’s a perfect time for business owners to ensure that their policies align with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements for reasonable accommodations.

What is the ADA?

The ADA states that an employer shall not discriminate against an individual on the basis of a disability.[1] The protections of the ADA cover those individuals who can perform essential functions of the employment position that the individual holds or desires, with or without reasonable accommodation.[2] It is important to note that employers may not deny employment opportunities to qualified individuals with a disability if the denial of employment is based on the need for a reasonable accommodation. [3]

Who is an individual with a disability?

The ADA requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities, unless such accommodation would cause undue hardship. Under the ADA, a disability is a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual.” This definition also includes individuals who do not currently have a disability, but have record of such an impairment. Additionally, the definition includes persons who do not have a disability, but are regarded as having a disability (e.g. an injury that is transitory or minor does not constitute a disability under the ADA). [4]

What does “reasonable accommodations” mean?

If an individual has a qualified disability under the ADA, he/she is eligible for a reasonable accommodation. Under the ADA, an employer can provide such reasonable accommodation in a variety of ways. A reasonable accommodation may include making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. Likewise, an employer can modify work schedules, reassign the employee to a vacant position, acquire equipment or devices, or provide similar accommodations.[5]

Even if an individual qualifies for, and requests a reasonable accommodation, the ADA does not mandate that an employer must grant such a request. [6] Under the ADA, an employer does not have to make reasonable accommodations for a person with a disability if the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would result in an undue hardship on the operation of the business. [7]

What is “undue hardship?”

The ADA defines undue hardship as, “an action requiring significant difficulty or expense.” [8] In determining whether or not a reasonable accommodation will result in undue hardship, there are four factors to consider:

  1. The nature and cost of the accommodation needed;
  2. The overall financial resources of the facility or facilities; the number of persons employed at the facility; the effect on expenses and resources, or the impact otherwise upon the operation of the facility;
  3. The overall financial resources of the employer; the overall size of the business; the number, type, and location of its facilities; and
  4. The type of operations of the employer, including the composition, structure, and functions of the workforce; the geographic separateness, administrative, or fiscal relationship of the facilities. [9]

Business owners must have a written policy

In order to comply with the ADA reasonable accommodations requirements, it is imperative that business owners have a written policy. This written policy should

  • be distributed to all employees
  • explain the business’s duty to comply with the ADA requirements for reasonable accommodations
  • explicitly provide for a process to request a reasonable accommodation
  • explain what factors the business may consider when authoring or denying a request.

Upon distribution and explanation, employees should be required to sign and date that they understand the requirements for reasonable accommodations, and that they understand the process for requesting such accommodations.

Every case presents its own unique facts and circumstances, so it’s important to consult with a professional. The business attorneys at O’Reilly Rancilio offer substantial knowledge on accommodation compliance and have a wide-range of experience drafting appropriate workplace policies suitable to their client’s specific needs. Visit our website or call 586-726-1000 for more information.

[1] 42 U.S.C. 12112(a).

[2] 42 U.S.C. 12111(8).

[3] 42 U.S.C. 12112(5)(B).

[4] 42 U.S.C. 12102(1) and 42 U.S.C. 12102(3).

[5] 42 U.S.C. 12111 (9).

[6] 42 U.S.C. 12112(5)(A).

[7] Id.

[8] 42 U.S.C. 12111(10)(A).

[9] 42 U.S.C. 12111(10)(B).