Even if you are familiar with your rights under the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) and federal Americans with Disability Act (ADA), you may not fully understand how these laws work regarding reasonable accommodation. In general, both laws require your employer to make fair adjustments in the workplace to allow you to perform essential job tasks; in practice, this mandate is a lot more complicated. Though you should always discuss your situation with an experienced Chicago disability discrimination attorney, some answers to the more common questions may help.
Who do the IHRA and ADA protect?
Both federal and state law make it unlawful for Illinois employers to treat workers differently in the workplace because of a real or perceived disability. The definition of disability under Illinois law is any determinable mental or physical characteristic a person may possess. In this sense, the law is more expansive than the federal statute, which defines disability as a condition that substantially limits a major life activity.
Some forms of disability discrimination are overt, such as when an employer terminates an employee and expressly states that disability is the reason. However, refusing to provide a worker with a reasonable accommodation that would allow him or her to perform essential job functions may also be unlawful.
How can my employer satisfy the reasonable accommodation rule?
An employer is required to provide a reasonable accommodation, which is an adjustment to the workplace environment that allows a qualified worker with a disability to perform essential job functions. Reasonable accommodation is a way of leveling the playing field, so that you can enjoy equal employment opportunities as others. Examples may be:
- Ensuring all workplace facilities are accessible to people who use a wheelchair, crutches, or a cane to get around;
- Allowing a hearing-impaired job candidate to use a sign language interpreter during an interview;
- Granting a diabetic appropriate breaks to monitor insulin levels and eat properly; or,
- Reassigning an individual who becomes unable to lift heavy loads due to an accident.
What is an essential job function?
In the context of discrimination, this is a basic employment task that you must be able to perform either on your own or with support from a reasonable accommodation. Employers cannot be expected to hire or maintain employees who simply cannot perform functions even with help. However, there may be disability discrimination where you are qualified and able to work, though you require a reasonable accommodation to do so.
Are there limitations on reasonable accommodation?
An Illinois employer may have justifiable grounds to deny reasonable accommodation where making an adjustment would cause undue hardship. The determination is very case-specific, but generally depends upon the cost of the accommodation, financial resources, nature of the business, and other factors.
Discuss Reasonable Accommodation with a Skilled Chicago Discrimination Lawyer
If you have questions regarding reasonable accommodation and what is required of Illinois employers, please contact the Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline. We can set up a consultation at our Chicago office to discuss your rights and legal options.