How to Handle Reasonable Accommodation Requests

Federal and state law requires employers to engage in dialogue with employees who seek accommodations due to disability.  An employer’s failure to grant accommodations requests may give rise to legal claims. Therefore, it is important for employees to know their rights and for employers to understand their legal obligations.  

What is a Reasonable Accommodation?

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities. A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a job or work environment that enables a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of the job.

The specific reasonable accommodations that are required under the ADA can vary depending on the nature of the disability and the job involved.

Five Tips For Handling Reasonable Accommodation Requests

When it comes to handling reasonable accommodation requests there are some steps that both employees and employers should take. Below we outline five tips for handling reasonable accommodation requests.

1. Review the ADA

It is a good idea to review the Americans with Disabilities Act before making a reasonable accommodation request. This can help an employee understand their rights as an employee or job applicant with a disability, as well as the obligations of the employer under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

By reviewing the Americans with Disabilities Act, the employee can learn more about the types of accommodations that may be available, and how the accommodation process works. Employees can also learn about the legal protections that are available if their employer fails to provide reasonable accommodation.

2. Request Documentation 

As an employee, it is generally a good idea to provide documentation when making a request for a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The documentation should establish that the employee has a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and explain how the disability limits the employee’s ability to perform their essential job functions.

The documentation can come from a variety of sources, such as a healthcare provider, rehabilitation specialist, or vocational counselor. It should include information about the nature of the employee’s disability, how it affects the employee’s ability to work or apply for a job, and any recommended accommodations that would help the employee perform the essential functions of the employee’s job.  Providing documentation can help expedite the accommodation process and ensure that the employer understands the employee’s disability-related needs.

3. Keep the Request Confidential

It is important to keep accommodation requests confidential to protect the privacy of the employee making the request. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that employers keep confidential any medical information they receive related to an employee’s disability or request for a reasonable accommodation. This includes any documentation provided by the employee or their healthcare provider.

Keeping accommodations requests confidential can also help to prevent discrimination or harassment against employees with disabilities. If an accommodation request is shared with other employees or supervisors who do not have a legitimate need to know, it can lead to stigmatization of the employee.

4. Respond in a Timely Manner 

It is important for employers to respond to accommodation requests in a timely manner. 

Delays in responding to accommodation requests can cause undue hardship to the employee and can negatively impact their ability to perform their job duties or participate in the hiring process.

Employers should have a process in place for handling accommodation requests, which includes responding to requests promptly and working with the employee or job applicant to identify and implement appropriate accommodations. 

If an employer needs more time to respond to an accommodation request, they should communicate with the employee and provide an estimated timeline for a response. It is important for employers to keep the lines of communication open with employees throughout the accommodation process to ensure that their needs are being addressed and to avoid unnecessary delays.

5. Consult an Employment Attorney With Experience in Workplace Accommodations

If an employee is uncertain about their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act or feels that their employer has not provided them with a reasonable accommodation, consulting with a New Jersey employment attorney may help clarify the situation and provide guidance on how to proceed.

In addition, an employment attorney can help an employee navigate the accommodation process and ensure that their rights are protected. This can be especially important if an employee feels that they have experienced discrimination or retaliation as a result of their request for accommodation.

Curcio Mirzaian Sirot’s New Jersey employment attorneys use their extensive experience to provide their clients with practical counseling advice that is narrowly tailored to meet their individual needs. If you are in need of counseling regarding reasonable workplace accommodations, please contact Curcio Mirzaian Sirot LLC

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