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The Right to a Reasonable Work Accommodation

More than 40 million Americans (and 411,000 West Virginians, or approximately 23% of the population) have some kind of physical, sensory, cognitive, or mental disability.employer gives employee accommodation with electric scooter

All employees need the right tools and work environment to effectively perform their jobs. Similarly, individuals with disabilities may need workplace adjustments — sometimes called accommodations — to maximize their productivity.

Fortunately, an obligation to provide reasonable accommodations for job applicants or employees with disabilities is one of the key requirements in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

An accommodation is considered any modification or adjustment to a job or work environment that enables a qualified person with a disability to apply for or perform a job. The term also encompasses alterations to ensure a qualified individual with a disability has rights and privileges in employment equal to those of employees without disabilities.

How to get an Accommodation from Your Employer

According to the U. S. Equal Opportunity commission (EEOC), you only have to let your employer know that you need an adjustment or change at work for a reason related to a medical condition. You can use “plain English” to make your request and you do not have to mention the ADA or use the phrase “reasonable accommodation.”

Here are some examples:

Example A: An employee tells her supervisor, “I’m having trouble getting to work at my scheduled starting time because of medical treatments I’m undergoing.” This is a request for a reasonable accommodation.

Example B: An employee tells his supervisor, “I need six weeks off to get treatment for a back problem.” This is a request for a reasonable accommodation.

Example C: A new employee, who uses a wheelchair, informs the employer that her wheelchair cannot fit under the desk in her office. This is a request for reasonable accommodation.

Example D: An employee tells his supervisor that he would like a new chair because his present one is uncomfortable. Although this is a request for a change at work, his statement is insufficient to put the employer on notice that he is requesting reasonable accommodation. He does not link his need for the new chair with a medical condition.

Requests for reasonable accommodation do not have to be in writing so you can request accommodations in a face-to-face conversation or using any other method of communication. Your employer may choose to write a memo or letter confirming your request or may ask you to fill out a form or submit the request in written form, but the employer cannot ignore your initial request. However, you may want to put your request in writing even if your employer does not require it. Creating a paper trail will be helpful if there is a dispute about whether or when you requested accommodation.

Find more information on Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship (EEOC Guidance) at http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/accommodation.html.

For more information regarding how to make a written accommodation request, visit Accommodation Request Letter at http://askjan.org/media/accommrequestltr.html.

Work Accommodations are Good for Everyone Including Employers

Unfortunately, many individuals who need accommodations aren’t aware of their rights, and employers often don’t offer to make accommodations. This is especially true of people who have recently developed a disability due to aging, an accident or injury and are unaware that they qualify for disability benefits like requesting a reasonable accommodation.

Research shows that most accommodations are low cost yet provide considerable direct and indirect benefits. In fact, data collected by the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) show that more than half of accommodations cost employers nothing, and of those that do cost, the typical one-time expenditure is $500. And most employers who had to pay for an accommodation report that it pays for itself many times over in the form of reduced insurance and training costs and increased productivity.

The following resources provide more information about job accommodations for people with disabilities:

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