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The ADA & Reasonable Accommodations

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers have to make reasonable accommodations for their employees who have disabilities. This may include modifications and adjustments to the office or work environment to allow the person with disabilities to perform the essential functions of their job. Before we continue about what constitutes “reasonable,” we must point out several pervasive myths surrounding the ADA, many of which are dispelled on our website. 

Some of these myths include that people with disabilities are given preferential treatment during the hiring process and that the ADA burdens small businesses by forcing them to make costly accommodations. Though these are both categorically false, there is an assumption that when a person with disabilities applies for a job, they will receive it because the employer is concerned about being sued. They build on this falsehood by saying the employer is financially on the hook to make expensive modifications. 

If you haven’t seen this portion of our website, we will point out that employers are free to hire the most qualified applicants. Still, they cannot overlook an equally-qualified applicant because of their disability. A qualified person is someone who can perform the essential functions of the job. You can identify the essential job functions by looking at why the position exists, what it is meant to produce, and what the other employees who fill the same role do.  Furthermore, many of these accommodations have negligible costs. Not only do the rest of them cost less than $500, but there are tax incentives to cover them.

How “Reasonable” Is Defined

Because the ADA is extensive, we cannot provide an answer for every scenario here today. However, our attorneys are here for you if you have additional questions beyond the scope of this blog. That said, general accommodations are covered under Titles II & III of the ADA, whereas making changes for an individual’s needs is outlined in Title I. Previously, we established that employers are required to provide “reasonable accommodations,” but that is not definitive. 

Something is deemed “unreasonable” when it imposes an undue hardship on the employer. If the accommodation is too expensive or difficult, it can be unreasonable. Here are some factors that play into that:

  • How much will the accommodation cost?
  • How financially able is the employer to make the accommodation? For example, think of a small business owner with limited assets.
  • The size of the business and how many employees work there (companies with 15 or more employees are generally required to make accommodations).
  • The impact that the accommodation will have on the business’s operations.

Here is a list of things that could be considered reasonable accommodations under the ADA:

  • Adjusting someone’s hours 
  • Providing reserved parking 
  • Modifying equipment 
  • Making the workplace more accessible by adding ramps or modifying a desk to fit someone’s specific needs
  • Changing the way training materials are presented 

Everything is considered on a case-by-case basis, and there is no single answer that explains whether you need to make the accommodation. For example, if you hire an employee and they later explain that they have a disability after being hired, what are your obligations? Generally, employers are only responsible for accommodations for disabilities they are aware of. Depending on what the disability is, they may not be able to perform the job functions. Secondly, there are scenarios where reassignment is a reasonable option. That doesn’t mean a new position has to be created, nor does it mean another employee must be terminated to fill a vacancy. 

Are You Dealing With An ADA Issue?

When someone claims your or your business has violated the ADA, contact the highly experienced attorneys of Trembly Law Firm. We will assess whether there is a valid claim, how to respond, how to correct the issue, and what is involved if your company has to defend itself. Although the ADA is important legislation, it can be abused. There have been so many ADA-based attacks on businesses that the Florida legislature passed a bill to protect owners. There is a clear line between frivolous and justice. Regardless of your ADA-related conflict, our attorneys are here to guide you through it. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.

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