In 1990, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act with the goal of creating fair treatment of disabled workers. Under this act, employers are required to make accommodations that are reasonable for workers with disabilities so that they can secure jobs and remain employed despite their conditions. Some outcomes of the ADA include good placement of individuals with disabilities within the workforce, as well as positive effects on their treatment by employers. The act has additionally raised awareness among employers in the country while lowering the level of discrimination of handicapped people in the workplace.
Despite the benefits that the ADA has provided, the act’s language is not very clear or specific about what types of accommodations an employer is expected to make during the hiring process, as well as during employment. Because of this, many courts in the U.S. are not in agreement with each other when it comes to accommodations. Until further clarification is provided, it is very likely that any disputes involving disabled persons will go to court.
How Are Reasonable Accommodations Defined?
According to the ADA, employers are prohibited from engaging in a variety of discriminatory actions based upon a person’s disability. These are some things that employers cannot do:
Reasonable accommodations must be made for those qualified people, regardless of their mental or physical incapacities. There is an exception, however. The law states that if making such accommodations creates an “undue hardship” for the business of the employer, they do not have to comply. The ADA balances the need for accommodations to be made for employees to complete their jobs and the changes and investments an employer must make to accommodate disabled individuals.
What Qualifies as Undue Hardship
Under the act, an undue hardship is any significant expense or extreme difficulty an employer must face to aid handicapped individuals. Here are some aspects employers may take into consideration when determining undue hardship:
When it comes to reasonable arrangements and undue hardship, it is quite difficult for courts to identify situations and apply solutions uniformly. In addition, disabilities must only be accommodated if the employer is aware of them. Therefore, an employee will not be allowed to bring forth an ADA claim for an unknown condition. Also, many disagreements arise on whether or not an employee is disabled by law. Some conditions can be difficult to judge.
Reasonable job arrangements may include physical work environment changes or changes to the actual job. A work environment change may be making alterations to the facility to make them accessible for the disabled. An employer may install elevators, ramps, handrails, doors designed for wheelchairs or new lighting. They may additionally purchase different types of chairs and desks. As for job changes, these may include modifying schedules, transferring the individual to another job or task or adjusting training materials.
How Is the Need for Accommodation Determined?
Courts determine the reasonableness of an accommodation, and how they do so can vary from case to case. In other words, there is no set formula for determining a person’s disabilities and how reasonable an arrangement might be. It is important to note that if an employee is incapable of performing the essential tasks of a job regardless of whether or not they have a reasonable accommodation, they are not qualified to do the job. Denying an unqualified person a job is not considered discrimination based on disability. With this information, employers should be able to understand better how situations involving disabled individuals are handled.
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