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Determining Reasonable Accommodation & Undue Hardship - Part 2
August 9, 2006
Reasonable Accommodation Scenario
Our office is fairly “laid back” and allows for our staff to work at their own pace. A few months ago one of our employees was in an accident and now has a disability. He is an excellent worker and before his accident, he was always dependable and on time. In a performance counseling session with his manager, he shared that on occasion, his disability causes him to have flare ups that prevent him from making it to work on time, if at all. We want to continue to employ this employee, but are unsure what our obligations are under the ADA. What options do we have?
Many employers have discovered the benefits of allowing employees to work at home through telework (also known as telecommuting) programs. Telework has allowed employers to attract and retain valuable workers by boosting employee morale and productivity. Technological advancements have also helped increase telework options. President George W. Bush's New Freedom Initiative emphasizes the important role telework can have for expanding employment opportunities for persons with disabilities.
In its 1999 Enforcement Guidance on Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (revised 10/17/02), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said that allowing an individual with a disability to work at home may be a form of reasonable accommodation. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodation for qualified applicants and employees with disabilities. Reasonable accommodation is any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to apply for a job, perform a job, or gain equal access to the benefits and privileges of a job. The ADA does not require an employer to provide a specific accommodation if it causes undue hardship, i.e., significant difficulty or expense.
The ADA does not require an employer to offer a tele-work program to all employees. However, if an employer does offer tele-work, it must allow employees with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in such a program.
In addition, the ADA's reasonable accommodation obligation, which includes modifying workplace policies, might require an employer to waive certain eligibility requirements or otherwise modify its tele-work program for someone with a disability who needs to work at home.
Not all persons with disabilities need - or want - to work at home. And not all jobs can be performed at home. But, allowing an employee to work at home may be a reasonable accommodation where the person's disability prevents successfully performing the job on-site and the job, or parts of the job, can be performed at home without causing significant difficulty or expense.
For More Information on Reasonable Accommodation:
- Work At Home/Telework as a Reasonable Accommodation
I Technical Assistance Manual, Chapter III - Reasonable Accommodation Obligation
ADA Document Portal
- ADA: Your Responsibilities
as an Employer
Accommodation Under the ADA
- Small Employers and
- Job Accommodation Network
Undue Hardship Example
A convenience store clerk with multiple sclerosis requests that he be allowed to go from working full-time to part- time as a reasonable accommodation because of his disability. The store assigns two clerks per shift, and if the first clerk's hours are reduced, the second clerk's workload will increase significantly beyond his ability to handle his responsibilities. The store determines that such an arrangement will result in inadequate coverage to serve customers in a timely manner, keep the shelves stocked, and maintain store security. Thus, the employer can show undue hardship based on the significant disruption to its operations and, therefore, can refuse to reduce the employee's hours. The employer, however, should explore whether any other reasonable accommodation will assist the store clerk without causing undue hardship.
For More Information on Undue Hardship:
Enforcement Guidance: Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the
- Contact your regional ADA
& I T Technical Assistance
Phone: 1-800-949-4232 (v/tty)
The Southeast Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (DBTAC) is authorized by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) to provide information, materials, and technical assistance to individuals and entities that are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) under Grant #H133D010207. However, you should be aware that NIDRR is not responsible for enforcement of the ADA For more information or assistance, please contact the Southeast DBTAC via its web site at www.sedbtac.org or by calling 1-800-949-4232 (TTY/voice).