Under city, state and federal law, employers are required to provide reasonable disability accommodations to disabled workers to allow them to perform their duties. If you have a disability and have been denied an accommodation by your employer, it takes a highly skilled employment law attorney to enforce your rights.
Lipsky Lowe is guided by a belief that disabled workers have a right to be treated with dignity and respect. Well-versed in the provisions of The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and applicable local and state laws in New York, we are committed to protecting the rights of the disabled. If your employer has failed to provide you with a reasonable accommodation, our legal team will be the strength in your corner.
What are reasonable disability accommodations?
The ADA, the New York State and New York City Human Rights Laws require an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to employees or job candidates unless the accommodation would cause the employer an undue hardship.
A reasonable accommodation is any change to a position or work environment that allows a disabled employee to perform his or her essential functions. Types of reasonable accommodation include:
- Job restructuring or reassignment
- Providing necessary equipment, readers or interpreters
- Time off for medical treatment or recovery
- Medical leave
- Allowing telecommuting
- Making the workplace wheelchair accessible
- Adjusting interview, hiring or recruiting process
Some examples of reasonable accommodation include:
- Modified supervision — Writing down feedback, rather than offering it verbally, for an employee who communicates more effectively through written materials
- Facility modification — Adding a wheelchair ramp to make the workplace wheelchair accessible
- Equipment modification — Modifying a computer to enhance images on the screen, allowing a worker who is vision impaired to accurately enter and read information
- Restructuring the job — Modifying a job to make it more consistent day to day to provide a worker with a cognitive disability with a structured routine
- Reassignment — Reassigning an employee to a vacant position if he or she can no longer perform the essential functions of his or her current job
What are essential functions?
Essential job functions are the fundamental duties of a position that the employee must be able to carry out, with or without an accommodation. Factors involved in determining whether a job function is essential include:
- The employer’s assessment of essential in job descriptions that are prepared before the employer advertises for the position
- Whether the sole purpose of the position is to perform one function (e.g. loading and unloading boxes or entering information into a database)
- The experience of other employees who hold the same position
- The time needed to perform the function
- Whether other employees are available to perform the function
- The degree of expertise or skill needed to perform the function
What is an undue hardship?
Employers are not required to make an accommodation if it would cause undue hardship. This means that the employer must be able to show that the accommodation was too costly, extensive, or disruptive to the workplace. Factors that the court will consider in determining whether an accommodation poses an undue hardship include:
- The type and cost of the accommodation
- The employer’s financial resources (including tax credits/deductions)
- The size, composition, and structure of the business
- Previously incurred accommodation costs
How do I obtain a disability accommodation from my employer?
A disabled worker must inform his or her employer that an accommodation is needed for a medical reason. If a disability is not obvious, the employer can ask for medical documentation from a health care provider to confirm the need for disability accommodations.
Once a request has been made, the employer must engage in a good faith interactive process during which possible accommodations are addressed. This does not mean that the employer must provide a specific accommodation, but rather, one that is effective in resolving the limitations presented by the disability. An employer’s failure to engage in the interactive process – by itself – may violate the law.
Ultimately, a reasonable accommodation must provide an opportunity for a disabled employee to attain the same level of performance that is available to non-disabled employees with similar skills and abilities. In addition, an employer is not required to make certain accommodations that are not considered reasonable, such as:
- Eliminating an essential job function
- Lowering performance standards
- Providing personal items for a disabled worker (e.g. wheelchair, hearing aid)
What can I do if my employer refuses to provide me with an accommodation?
If your employer has denied a workplace accommodation and cannot show that doing so would pose an undue hardship, you may have a valid discrimination claim based on your disability. That’s the time to contact the employment law attorneys at Lipsky Lowe. We will take the time to assess your case and explore all of your options. We can work to make sure that the workplace accommodations are provided to you. If the employer refuses to cooperate, we may recommend filing a lawsuit to help you obtain compensation for the harm you have endured.