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Workplace discrimination and the 'undue hardship'

Last week this blog discussed how, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers in Tennessee and across the nation in general must provide their disabled workers with reasonable accommodations so they can do their jobs. However, as is the case with just about any law, there are exceptions, and the ADA is no different.

First of all, sometimes a practical aspect of a job makes it impossible for any reasonable accommodation to exist that would make it so that an employee could perform the job. Take, for example, the job of airplane pilot. If a blind person wanted to perform that job, even if every reasonable accommodation is made, it is unlikely that the blind person would be able to execute the duties of airline pilot. Therefore, the airline would be allowed to refuse to hire that individual, due to that individual's disability.

Also, it is important to determine when an accommodation is "reasonable" and when it is not. If an employer can demonstrate that it would face an undue hardship if the reasonable accommodation is made, then it does not have to provide said accommodation. Unfortunately, what constitutes an undue hardship is sort of a gray area, depending heavily on the factors of an individual case. In general, though, an undue hardship exists when the accommodation is very difficult or very expensive to implement. However, what constitutes difficulty and expense changes from employer to employer, and between different types of disabilities. What may be a reasonable accommodation for a large corporation might impose an undue hardship on a small mom-and-pop enterprise.

As this shows, while the ADA provides disabled workers with many valuable rights, it is important to understand what an employer's duties are under the law when it comes to workplace discrimination. If a disabled person believes he or she has been unlawfully denied a reasonable accommodation because their employer is claiming undue hardship, then it is important for the employee to seek the help necessary to determine what steps to take moving forward.

Source: FindLaw, "Disability Discrimination and the Law," Accessed Sept. 23, 2017

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