Most people know that the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employment discrimination based on a disability. But what does this mean really? Does this mean I can never be fired regardless of how disabled I am?

No. The ADA says that you must be “qualified” for the job, which means that you must be able to perform the job’s essential functions with or without a reasonable accommodation. But here is where things can get sticky. Who determines what is reasonable vis-à-vis an accommodation? And how well must a person be able to perform the job – are we talking barely getting by or being the office rock star?

The answers to these questions are not always clear. Generally speaking, an accommodation is unreasonable if it imposes an undue hardship on the employer. Hardship and inconvenience are not the same thing, however. Oftentimes, the line between “hardship” and “reasonable” is resolved by considering things such as the number of employees at the facility, the company’s financial resources, the specific job duties, the effect of the accommodation on everyone else, or the effect on established rules or policies.

Again depending on the specific employer, job, disability, and situation, courts have found the following accommodations to be reasonable:

− Making the work area accessible or more functional
− Additional unpaid leave
− Modified work schedule
− Limited job restructuring
− Allowing additional breaks
− Additional training
− Reassignment to a vacant job if the person is qualified

Some unreasonable requests have included:

− Indefinite leave
− Working from home
− Eliminating essential functions of the job
− An accommodation that is unduly expensive
− An accommodation that would prevent other employees from performing their jobs

These are general examples and are dependent on the specific employment situation.

For employees, the main take away is this: If you are having difficulty doing your job due to a disability, or if you want a job for which you will need an accommodation, you must ask for the accommodation. The employer then has the duty to discuss with you what accommodation they can offer you.

We at the Nelson Law Group handle disability discrimination claims, including problems with accommodations. Give us a call at (865) 383-1053 to speak to an employment lawyer today!