Your employer is not obligated to understand what it is like to live with a disability; in fact, you do not even need to tell them anything about your disability except that it exists and which accommodations you require. It is your employer’s responsibility, however, to provide reasonable accommodations so that you can fulfill your job duties in your assigned workplace. In fact, the law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations not only to people with disabilities who are currently on the payroll as employees but also to job applicants, candidates, and trainees during the hiring process. Getting appropriate accommodations in your workplace should be simple, but if your employer puts up obstacles, you need help from an employment discrimination lawyer. To find out more about reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities in the workplace and about filing employment discrimination complaints, contact the Atlanta employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP.
The Americans With Disabilities Act and Employment Rights
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) states that employment discrimination on the basis of disability is against the law. As with employment discrimination based on other protected characteristics (such as age, gender, race, or religion), discrimination can manifest itself as refusal to hire, denial of promotions, hostile work environment, unfair termination of employment, or retaliation for filing a discrimination complaint. Discrimination based on disability has an additional dimension, though, which is that employers must provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities upon request, and employees ay use these accommodations while working and at any point during the hiring process.
According to the ADA, a disability is any health condition that “substantially impairs one or more major life activities.” Not all disabilities are visible, and even if a disability resolves or goes into remission on its own or with medical treatment, it still meets the legal definition of a disability if it causes substantial impairment. People with disabilities have the same rights to medical privacy as able-bodied people; your employer does not have the right to ask you personal questions about your medical history or about why a requested accommodation is necessary.
How to Request an Accommodation From Your Employer
When a person with a disability applies for or accepts a job, they have the right to ask the employer to make the workplace accessible to them. Anything the employer does to make the workplace accessible to you is called an accommodation. These are some common types of accommodations that employees and job candidates with disabilities request:
- Modifications to the workspace to make it accessible, just as adding wheelchair ramps, making the corridor between office cubicles wider, or placing a chair in front of a cash register so that an employee who cannot stand for long periods can work there
- Providing accessibility devices and software, such as Braille keyboards, streaming of audio content to hearing aids, or closed captioning of video content
- Modifying work schedules and leave policies to accommodate an employee’s medical appointments, recovery from major medical procedures, or medication schedule
- Providing the services of readers, sign language interpreters at work, job interviews, or training
You can ask your employer for an accommodation verbally or in writing; the ADA does not require requests for accommodations to be in writing. It is a better idea to make the request in writing, though; sending it by email is best because of the time stamp. If you make the request in writing, your employer cannot deny that you requested accommodations when you did and cannot lie about what accommodation you requested.
How Can You Tell if a Requested Accommodation is Reasonable?
Except for the smallest businesses (those with fewer than 15,000 employees), all employers must make reasonable accommodations for employees and job applicants who show documentation of a disability and request accommodations. The employer can refuse to provide an accommodation if the employer can demonstrate that providing it would cause undue hardship. Most of the time, undue hardship just means that it would be too expensive for the employer to provide the accommodation. Employers can also claim undue hardship if providing the accommodation would create a danger or hazard in the workplace. Big companies generally have more resources to provide accommodations to employees with disabilities than small businesses do, but any business with at least 15 employees is legally obligated to provide reasonable accommodations to employees who need them.
By law, an accommodation is not reasonable if you are asking your employer to pay for it even for the times when you are not at work. You can ask your employer to build a wheelchair ramp at your workplace but not at your house. Likewise, you can ask your employer to pay for software that enables audio streaming to your hearing aid, but you cannot ask your employer to pay for your hearing aid. The Atlanta employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you negotiate with your employer about getting the accommodations you need.
Filing a Complaint or Lawsuit About Discrimination Based on Disability
The process for filing a discrimination lawsuit against your employer has several steps. First, you must notify the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that you have experienced discrimination and would like to sue. The EEOC will then conduct an investigation to see whether you have grounds for a lawsuit. You can only file the lawsuit with the court after the EEOC sends you a letter giving you permission to sue. The deadline for filing a notice with the EEOC is quite short, so you should contact a lawyer almost immediately after the incident of discrimination takes place.
Contact a Georgia Employment Lawyer About Disability Accommodations
Even though the law requires it, getting your employer to provide the accommodations you need for work or job training is not always simple. An employment discrimination lawyer can help you with all stages of the process of requesting accommodations or resolving disputes related to an employer’s failure to provide them. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Atlanta, Georgia to set up a consultation.