How Do I Get a Disability Accommodation at Work?

How Do I Get a Disability Accommodation at Work?

One of my law school professors told us “you never get anything unless you ask.” In other words, we should always ask for things with confidence, especially if we are legally entitled to those things.

This principle certainly applies when asking for a disability accommodation. Employers must grant reasonable accommodations if, because of a physical, mental, or other disability, a worker needs help to perform an essential job function. Employers can only refuse if the request constitutes an undue hardship. As outlined below, that is a hard thing to prove.

A Chicago job disability attorney can go over your rights with you, help you make a request, and stand up for you if your employer refuses to grant it.

Qualified Accommodation Requests

As the name implies, the Americans with Disabilities Act only protects people with disabilities. Essentially, a disability is any involuntary condition that affects everyday life in some way. Excessive alcohol use is probably not a disability. Obesity may be a disability, depending on the cause. For example, some people take medicines that increase weight or slow metabolism. Others are genetically predisposed to weight gain.

Only employees who have the necessary qualifications and can perform the necessary functions without accommodations are eligible. Some common requests include:

  • Varying work hours to accommodate medical treatment (e.g. four 10-hour days instead of five eight-hour days),
  • Modifying job tests or test conditions to allow oral test-taking or additional time,
  • Altering desk height, computer keyboards, or other furniture or equipment to accommodate a disability,
  • Hiring interpreters or other assistants, and
  • Providing additional unpaid leave for medical reasons.

In everyday life, the phrase “reasonable accommodation” implies some give and take. In the ADA context, that is not normally the case. Employees have considerable power. Assume Jan has a back injury and asks for a $200 office chair. If she has a medical need for that chair, she does not have to settle for the $150 chair.

To obtain an accommodation from your employer, identify the problem, offer several different solutions, and highlight the best one. Be sure and document everything, especially the cost.

Undue Hardship

There is a difference between an undue hardship and unwillingness to provide the accommodation. To draw the line, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission generally looks at the following factors:

  • Cost of the request,
  • Employer’s financial resources, and
  • Nature of the business.

Admittedly, these factors are rather vague. But unless employers can prove that the request would be exceedingly expensive or disruptive, the ADA probably allows it. Marginal, or even substantial, cost and disruption are not enough.

Work With a Dedicated Attorney

Pretty much any ADA accommodation request is a reasonable one. For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago employment lawyer, contact the Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline. After-hours visits are available.