What is a Reasonable Accommodation in the Workplace?
Are you unable to perform your job because of a disability? If so, your employer may have to make reasonable accommodations to help you carry out your essential job functions. That is what a reasonable accommodation is – it is a way of modifying work so that disabled employees can perform their job. However, what types of accommodations are reasonable is not always clear.What Types of Disabilities Qualify for a Reasonable Accommodation?
While there is no comprehensive list of disabilities that employers are required to accommodate, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (known as the LAD) defines the term disability very broadly. In fact, a disability, under the Law Against the Discrimination includes physical disabilities, impairments, infirmities, and disfigurements as well as mental, psychological and developmental disabilities and impairments.
Some disabilities may not be obvious or visible. In those cases, an employer may ask for and is entitled to medical documentation supporting the need for an accommodation.What’s Reasonable?
An accommodation is reasonable so long as it does not create an undue hardship to the employer. Some typical accommodations that have been found reasonable under the law include:
- Job Restructure: An employer may be required to reallocate or redistribute non-essential (meaning marginal) job functions or change how or when certain tasks are performed.
- Provide Leave: A leave of absence may, in some cases, be a reasonable accommodation. Employers must also accommodate when employees need time off from work to get medical or psychological treatment and services, recuperate, train service animals, and other disability-related services.
- Reassignment to a vacant position: Reassignment of a disabled employee to a vacant position may be a reasonable accommodation when the employee can no longer perform his or her essential job functions with or without a reasonable accommodation. Employers, however, do not have to create a new position or re-assign or terminate other staff to create a job availability.
- Modify workplaces: Employers may have to modify workplaces as an accommodation of disabled employees.
- Modify equipment: Employers may also have to modify work equipment as a reasonable accommodation. For example, an employer may have to utilize software that magnifies a display screen to assist an employee with vision problems.
- Modify work schedule: Employers may also be required to modify employees’ work schedules or even provide a part-time work schedule.
- Allow work-from-home arrangements: In some cases, employees may be required to allow disabled employees to work from home.
- Create accessible parking: An employer may create a reserved spot for an employee who cannot walk long distances.
- Allow service animals: An employer may change a “no pets” policy to welcome an employee’s service animal.
There are many types and examples of reasonable accommodations that employers may be required to make so that disabled employees can perform the essential functions of their jobs. That is because reasonable accommodations will vary depending on an employee’s position and the way the disability affects their ability to perform their job.
It is important to remember that employers are not necessarily required to provide the accommodation requested by the employee. The law only requires that they provide a reasonable accommodation.While the ADA Might Not Apply to Your Situation, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination Applies to All New Jersey Employers and Employees
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination applies to all New Jersey employers and employees, including state and local governments, even though the federal ADA only applies to employers with 15 or more employees.Accommodation Issues Can Be Tricky
Requesting and getting reasonable accommodations can be tricky. If you need such an accommodation or are not getting the reasonable accommodations you need to perform your job, you should discuss your situation with an employment attorney, and learn more about your options.