A History Of Growing Trust In Kentucky

What are reasonable accommodations?

On Behalf of | May 19, 2023 | Employment

You likely know that it’s illegal for employers to discriminate against applicants and employees based on a variety of factors, including their race, gender, age, religion and disability. But to identify which behaviors cross the line into discrimination, you often have to look at things on a case-by-case basis.

This is often true when it comes to disability discrimination. In these cases, one of the key concepts is that employers must provide “reasonable accommodations” to help employees with disabilities perform their jobs. But what is “reasonable”? It can be hard to know.

The definition of “reasonable accommodations”

First of all, it’s important to understand that Kentucky employees benefit from the protections afforded by both state and federal laws.

At the federal level, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says that employers must provide reasonable accommodations. It says reasonable accommodations have three purposes:

  • To ensure that all qualified applicants have equal opportunities during the hiring process
  • To ensure that qualified employees are able to perform the essential functions of their jobs
  • To help people with disabilities enjoy the same benefits and privileges of employment as their peers

At the state level, KRS 344.040 says that employers must provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant women, new mothers and others with a “related medical condition.” The state statute defines these accommodations more narrowly, saying they include, but are not limited to, “the need to express breast milk.”

Of course, employees don’t have to choose from one or the other set of protections. Employers must follow both state and federal guidelines, so employees should expect reasonable accommodations in all these situations.

The idea of “undue hardship”

A large part of the confusion around disability discrimination may owe to the idea of “undue hardship.” State and federal law allow businesses to deny requests for accommodations if those requests would cause them undue hardship.

As the Human Development Institute at the University of Kentucky notes, accommodations create undue hardships for a business when they are “too costly, extensive, or disruptive.” It offers three questions to judge whether an accommodation request might create undue hardship:

  • Are there other, cheaper accommodations that would serve?
  • Would the accommodation require significant adjustments that could harm the business?
  • Would the accommodation create problems for other employees or customers?

When the answer to any of these questions is a “yes,” employers may be able to argue the accommodation request would result in undue hardship.

Kentucky law says that businesses can evaluate accommodation requests in light of six factors:

  • The scope and cost of the accommodation
  • The size and resources of the employer
  • The size and resources of the affected facility
  • The type of business and its operations
  • The duration of the requested accommodation
  • Whether the employer has made similar accommodations or includes them in its policies

Since there are so many factors to consider, it can be hard for individuals to understand whether their employers have good reason to deny their requests. To understand whether or not something would truly cause undue hardship, you often have to gain some greater experience and context.

Do you have a disability discrimination case?

Discrimination cases often start when people feel they’re not receiving fair treatment. They suspect that, maybe, an employer isn’t treating them with the respect the law demands. However, that feeling is never the end of a case. It’s only the beginning.

To build a strong case, you need to understand the law and gather the right evidence. This is usually where a good attorney enters the picture. You can meet with an attorney to gauge your case and see if you have a claim worth pursuing. If you do, your attorney can help you stand up for your rights. The law says employers can’t discriminate against employees and applicants, but it’s up to the employees and applicants to call out the bad actors.