Workers capable of performing their job duties should not be hindered by a disability, and employers are not allowed to discriminate against an employee or applicant because they have a disability. Unfortunately, many employers do not want to take the time or spend the resources to make simple accommodations that would allow their employees to reach their full potential. In the worst case scenarios, employers will terminate an employee for requesting an accommodation for their needs.
If you or someone you know has been denied a reasonable request for accommodation or faced adverse employment actions because of their disability status the experienced employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP are here to help. Call the office or contact us today to learn more.
The Americans With Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee or applicant based on their actual or perceived disability status. Discrimination includes refusing to hire, fire, or engaging in other adverse employment actions against them like demotion, suspension, refusing promotions or raises, transferring to a less desirable location, scheduling poor or difficult work hours, and refusing to make reasonable accommodations for the position. This Act applies to any employer, including those in Baltimore, with at least 15 employees.
The ADA protects employees and applicants who have a physical or mental disability, employees with a history of impairment (such as those in remission from cancer), and employees who the employer believes is disabled even if they actually are not. A disability under the law is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities, which includes both daily tasks like walking and reading as well as bodily functions like digestive or respiratory functions.
The Americans with Disabilities Act applies to qualified workers who fall under the law. Not only must the employer have the requisite number of employees, but the employee or applicant making the reasonable accommodation request must be capable of performing the essential job duties of the position, either with or without a reasonable accommodation. Essential duties are those that are fundamental to the position; however, secondary duties are not considered when determining whether a person is qualified for a position.
What is a Reasonable Accommodation?
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that employers make reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities unless that accommodation would cause an undue burden on the employer. The ADA accommodation requirement applies to both employees and applicants, which includes full and part-time employees, probationary employees, and applicants. A reasonable accommodation is defined as “any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities.”
The purpose of reasonable accommodations is to eliminate discrimination against employees with disabilities by reducing workplace barriers that keep them from otherwise performing their work. Common workplace barriers include physical obstacles like inaccessible parts of a facility as well as procedural barriers such as the rules about how essential or marginal job functions are performed. There are three main types of reasonable accommodations that can be requested by an applicant or employee:
- Modifications or adjustments to a job application process that enable a qualified applicant with a disability to be considered for the position,
- Modifications or adjustments to the work environment, or to the manner or circumstances under which the position held or desired is customarily performed, that enable a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of that position, or
- Modifications or adjustments that enable an employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment as are enjoyed by its other similarly situated employees without disabilities.
Common examples of a reasonable accommodation in the workplace include making facilities or buildings accessible, restructuring a job, modifying a work schedule, making small changes to an office, acquiring or modifying equipment or software, modifying tests, policies, or training, providing a qualified reader or interpreter, allowing a service animal on company grounds, and reassignment to a vacant position.
It is important to note that there are limits on reasonable accommodation requests. Employers are not required to eliminate an essential function of a position to fit an accommodation request. They are also not required to lower production standards if those standards are applied uniformly to employees with and without disabilities. Finally, employers are not required to provide personal use items as part of a reasonable accommodation if it is used for daily activities both on and off the job, such as a prosthetic limb, eyeglasses, hearing aids, or other devices.
What is Considered an Undue Hardship?
The only exception to an accommodation request is if the employer can prove that it would be an undue hardship to meet the needs of a disabled employee or applicant. In order to qualify as an undue hardship, an employer must show that meeting the request would result in significant difficulty or expense based on the circumstances and resources of that particular employer. The employer must be able to show that the accommodation would be unduly extensive, substantial, disruptive, or would fundamentally alter the operation of the business in order to meet those needs. However, if a reasonable accommodation is made that is not an undue hardship and an employer refuses, they may be liable for discrimination. Damages in a disability discrimination case may include back pay, reinstatement, accommodations made for the position, attorneys’ fees, and more. If you believe that you may have a case, talk to our office today.
Talk to Our Office Today
If you or someone you know has been discriminated against in the workplace because of disability status or refused a reasonable accommodation request, there may be a case against the employer for damages. To learn more about your legal options in the Baltimore area, call or contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP today to schedule a consultation of your case with one of our knowledgeable employment lawyers now.