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An overview of reasonable accommodation obligations for employers

On Behalf of | May 17, 2023 | Employment

As an employer, you are legally obligated to provide reasonable accommodation to employees with mental or physical disabilities. It means making changes or adjustments to the work environment, policies or practices that enable disabled employees to perform the essential functions of their job.

Reasonable accommodation can include modifying equipment, providing assistive technology, adjusting work schedules or reassigning tasks. The benefits of providing reasonable accommodation are not only for the employee but also for the employer. You can reduce absenteeism, turnover and the risk of legal liability for non-compliance with the law by affording workers access to what they need.

Responding to a request for reasonable accommodation

Employees can request accommodation verbally or in writing at any time. You can also initiate the process if you notice or suspect that an employee has a disability that affects their work performance.

After that, there should be an interactive dialogue process with the employee to explore possible accommodation options. You can consult with various sources such as the employee, their health care provider, your human resources department or external experts to identify potential solutions that would enable the employee to perform their job effectively.

The final step is implementing the accommodation as soon as possible after reaching an agreement with the employee. It is also advisable to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodation periodically and make adjustments if needed.

Reasonable accommodation and undue hardship

You are not required to provide accommodation that would cause undue hardship to your business. Undue hardship means significant difficulty or expense that would affect the business operations. Various factors, such as the size of your business and the available resources, may come into play when determining undue hardship.

The importance of legal compliance

Denying a valid reasonable accommodation request or retaliating against the employee in question is unlawful. It is considered discriminatory and you risk financial and legal penalties for violating the law, not to mention the negative impact it may have on your brand. Seeking legal guidance if you are unsure of your rights and responsibilities can help to ensure compliance with the law and to mitigate any potential risks or liabilities.