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Reasonable Accomodations

Identifying Reasonable Accommodations

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Identifying a Reasonable Accommodation

In many cases, an appropriate accommodation will be obvious, and you should always consult the person with the disability as the first step in considering an accommodation. However, in some cases, the appropriate accommodation may not be so easy to identify. In such cases, the employer and the individual with a disability should work together to identify the appropriate accommodation. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulations provide guidance for an informal, interactive process to find an effective accommodation. This four-step informal, interactive process can be used to find an effective accommodation that will enable an individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of a job, as well as to identify accommodations for job applicants and to provide equal benefits and privileges of employment. The four steps include:

  • Look at the particular job involved. What is its purpose and its essential functions?
  • Consult with the individual with a disability to find out his/her specific physical or mental abilities and limitations as they relate to the essential functions of the job. Look at the barriers to job performance and assess how they can be overcome with an accommodation.
  • In consultation with the individual, identify potential accommodations and assess how effective each would be in enabling the individual to perform the essential job functions.
  • If more than one accommodation would be effective to provide an equal employment opportunity, consider the preference of the individual with a disability and select the accommodation that best meets the needs of the individual and the employer.
  • To get additional information on the four-step informal, interactive process click here to go to the EEOC Title I Technical Assistance Manual.

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When does the Interactive process begin?

A request for reasonable accommodation is the first step in the informal, interactive process between the individual and the employer. Once a qualified individual with a disability has made a request, the employer must make a reasonable effort to determine the appropriate accommodation.

In many cases, the appropriate reasonable accommodation may be so obvious to either or both the individual with a disability and the employer that it may not be necessary to proceed with this step-by-step analysis. For example, if an employee who uses a wheelchair requests that his or her desk be placed on blocks to elevate the desktop above the arms of the wheelchair and the employer complies, an appropriate acommodation has been requested, identified, and provided without either the employer or the employee being aware of having engaged in any kind of reasonable accommodation process.

However, in some instances neither the individual requesting the accommodation nor the employer can readily identify the appropriate accommodation. For example, the individual needing the accommodation may not know enough about the equipment used by the employer or the exact nature of the work site to suggest an appropriate accommodation. Likewise, the employer may not know enough about the individual's disability or the limitations that disability would impose on the performance of the job to suggest an appropriate accommodation. Under such circumstances, it may be necessary for the employer to initiate a more defined problem solving process, such as the step-by-step process described above, as part of its reasonable effort to identify the appropriate reasonable accommodation.

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The Undue Hardship Limitation

An employer does not have to make a reasonable accommodation if it can be shown that, to do so, would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the business. An undue hardship is an action that requires "significant difficulty or expense" in relation to the size of the employer, the resources available, and the nature of the operation. Whether a particular accommodation would impose an undue hardship must always be determined on a case-by-case basis. An accommodation that poses an undue hardship for one employer at a particular time may not pose an undue hardship for another employer, or even for the same employer at another time.

For more information on the Undue Hardship Limitation Click here to go to the EEOC Title I Technical Assistance Manual

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Technical assistance available

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issues enforcement guidances as a part of an active technical assistance program to help employers, other covered entities, and people with disabilities learn about their obligations and rights under the employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (Title I of the ADA). The Enforcement Guidance on Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship under the Americans with Disabilities Act clarifies the rights and responsibilities of employers and individuals with disabilities regarding reasonable accommodation and undue hardship. This Guidance examines what "reasonable accommodation" means and who is entitled to receive it. The Guidance discusses reasonable accommodations applicable to the hiring process and to the benefits and privileges of employment.

Click here to go to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission site and view the Guidance in its entirety.

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is a service of the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) of the U.S. Department of Labor. JAN's mission is to facilitate the employment and retention of workers with disabilities by providing employers, employment providers, people with disabilities, their family members and other interested parties with information on job accommodations, self-employment and small business opportunities and related subjects. JAN's efforts are in support of the employment, including self-employment and small business ownership, of people with disabilities. JAN represents the most comprehensive resource for job accommodations available. JAN provides individualized accommodation information on a case-by-case basis.

To learn more about how JAN can help you click here to go to the Job Accommodation Network site.

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