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Employment law: what is a 'reasonable accommodation'?

As readers of this blog may remember, last week we discussed what constitutes a disability for purposes of the Americans with Disabilities Act. If a worker in Tennessee or elsewhere in the United States meets this definition, his or her employer has to provide the worker with reasonable accommodations that allow the worker to do their job despite their disability.

Some general reasonable accommodations include installing wheelchair ramps, special equipment or changing the worker's duties under their job description so the worker can do their job. Permitting the worker to take unpaid time off for medical purposes, or allowing the worker to use vacation time when he or she needs time off for medical reasons are also examples of reasonable accommodations.

If there is a lighter-duty position or other open position that the worker can be moved to, this might also be a reasonable accommodation. If a worker has "non-essential" duties that only take a little amount of time to complete, they can be transferred to another employee. Arranging a worker's work schedule in a way that accounts for his or her medical condition can also be a reasonable accommodation. Finally, sometimes a worker might need an interpreter or a qualified reader, which could also be reasonable accommodations.

These are only some examples of reasonable accommodations in the workplace; there are many others. What is important is that the reasonable accommodation should give a worker with a disability the chance to perform the job in the same way that a worker without a disability would be able to. That being said, there are some exceptions in which an employer need not provide a reasonable accommodation, mainly if there will be an undue hardship. This will be discussed in a future post. Until then, those with a disability who are concerned that their employer is not providing them with a reasonable accommodation in violation of the ADA or otherwise have been discriminated against at work may want to discuss the issue with an attorney, who can advise them on how to proceed.

Source: FindLaw, "Disability Discrimination and the Law," Accessed Sept. 17, 2017

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