The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that employers with 15 or more employees make reasonable accommodations in the workplace for employees with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations must be made on a case-by-case basis and are not required when costs would constitute an undue hardship for an employer.
What are Reasonable Accommodations?
Reasonable accommodations are adjustments or modifications which range from making the physical work environment accessible to restructuring a job, providing assistive equipment, providing certain types of personal assistants (e.g., a reader for a person who is blind, an interpreter for a person who is deaf), transferring an employee to a different job or location, or providing flexible scheduling. Reasonable accommodations are tools provided by employers to enable employees with disabilities to do their jobs, just as the employer provides the means for all employees to accomplish their jobs. For example, employees are provided with desks, chairs, phones, and computers. An employee who is blind or who has a visual impairment might need a computer which operates by voice command or has a screen that enlarges print.
What is Undue Hardship?
This legal term is defined in the ADA as an action requiring significant difficulty or expense for the business/employer, considering the following factors:
When May a Job Accommodation be Required?
- the nature and cost of the proposed accommodation,
the overall financial resources of the business and the effect of the accommodation upon expenses and resources, and
the impact of the accommodation upon the operation of the facility.
A workplace accommodation may be requested by an employee with a disability at any time during employment. After initiating the workplace accommodation process, the individual and the employer should discuss the request. There are several considerations when determining reasonable accommodation requests, including the demands of the job, the employee's skills and functional limitations, available technology, and cost. After both parties agree that a workplace accommodation is needed, an appropriate one must be selected.
What are the Steps to Consider When Making a Workplace Accommodation?
Step 1: Decide if the employee with a disability is qualified to perform the essential functions of the job with or without an accommodation.
Step 2: Identify the employee's workplace accommodation needs by:
Step 3: Select and provide the accommodation that is most appropriate for the employee and employer.
- involving the employee who has the disability in every step of the process;
employing confidentiality principles while exploring ways to provide workplace accommodations;
consulting with rehabilitation professionals, if needed;
using job descriptions and job analyses to detail essential functions of the job; and
identifying the employee's functional limitations and potential accommodations
An employee should try the product or piece of equipment prior to purchase.
Step 4: Check results by:
- Costs should not be an undue hardship.
Accommodations selected should be effective, reliable, easy to use, and readily available for the employee needing the accommodation.
Step 5: Provide follow-up, if needed, by:
- monitoring the accommodation to see if the adaptation enables the employee to complete the necessary work task(s); and
periodically evaluating the accommodation(s) to ensure effectiveness.
What Tax Credits are Available to Assist with Workplace Accommodations?
- modifying the accommodation if necessary; or
- repeating these steps if appropriate.
Disabled Access Tax Credit: This is a tax credit available to an eligible small business in the amount of 50 percent of eligible expenditures that exceed $250 but do not exceed $10,250 for a taxable year.
Architectural Barrier Tax Deduction: Businesses may deduct up to $15,000 of the costs incurred each year to remove physical, structural, or transportation barriers in the workplace.
Where Can I Obtain Additional Information About Workplace Accommodations?
The Office of Disability Employment Policy's Job Accommodation Network (JAN):
Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers (DBTACs):
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC):
For Technical Assistance: (800)669-4000 (V) or (800)669-6820 (TTY)
To Obtain Documents: (800)669-3362 (V) or (800)800-3302 (TTY)
Mark Pitzer, Attorney
Office of Chief Counsel
1111 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20224
Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disabilitiy Employment Policy