According to federal law and Arizona state laws, people with disabilities have the right to work at jobs for which they are qualified, and employers have a legal responsibility to provide reasonable accommodations to employees and job candidates with disabilities. Intentionally excluding people with disabilities from the workplace, whether by refusing to hire them or by failure to provide reasonable accommodations, is employment discrimination, which is a violation of federal and state law. Advocating for yourself in a workplace where everyone seems determined to make things as difficult as possible for you can be a challenge, which is why it helps to hire an employment discrimination lawyer with experience working on cases related to discrimination based on disability and reasonable accommodations. Contact the Phoenix employment discrimination lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP for help requesting reasonable accommodations or resolving a dispute related to a request for accommodations.
When is Your Employer Responsible for Providing Disability Accommodations?
The federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and the Arizona Civil Rights Act make it illegal for employers to discriminate against people with disabilities through their words, actions, or policies. Non-discrimination entails providing reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. Not only do employees have the right to employer-provided accommodations once they have started their jobs, but they also have the right to request accommodations during all phases of the hiring process, including interviews, pre-employment testing, and training.
All public sector employers (state and local governments and federal agencies) must provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities upon request. Private sector employers must also follow these requirements if they have 15 or more employees on their payroll for at least 20 weeks out of the year.
Reasonable Accommodations and Employer Responsibilities
The ADA recognizes a wide variety of health conditions as disabilities; a disability can be any kind of physical or mental health condition that impairs a person’s ability to work or perform the functions of daily life. Just as there are many kinds of disabilities, there are many kinds of accommodations. Generally, the kinds of accommodations that employers provide to employees with disabilities fall into several categories:
- Flexible scheduling to accommodate the employee’s medical or transportation needs
- Modifications to the workspace to make it accessible to the employee, or assigning the employee to work in a more accessible location
- Providing accessible mechanical or electronic devices or software in the workplace, such as Braille keyboards or software that enables audio streaming to an employee’s hearing aid
- Providing the services of assistants, such as sign language interpreters, readers, or drivers
According to the ADA, an accommodation is reasonable if providing it does not cause undue hardship, financial or otherwise, to the employer. Besides this, an accommodation is not reasonable if it requires the employer to remove an essential function of the employee’s job or requires the employer to make an exception to hiring standards. Likewise, it is not reasonable for the employee to ask the employer to provide a device or software application that the employee uses outside of work. Asking for a Braille keyboard on a work computer or a wheelchair accessible desk in the workplace is a reasonable accommodation. It is not reasonable for the employee to ask the employer to pay for her hearing aids, since she wears them at home and at leisure, as well as at work. It is also not reasonable for the employee to ask his employer to pay for the installation of a wheelchair-accessible shower in his bathroom at home; he can ask for one in employer-provided housing, though, if employer-provided housing is a benefit provided to all employees in his position of employment, and he is certainly within his rights to ask the employer to build a wheelchair-accessible stall in the office bathroom.
Requesting and Receiving Reasonable Accommodations in the Workplace
When you request reasonable accommodations from your employer, you will need to disclose that you have a disability; your doctor should give you a letter certifying this and stating which accommodations you require. You have no obligation to disclose your diagnosis, and your employer does not have the right to ask; disability accommodations are not an exception to medical privacy laws. You should submit your accommodation request in writing, so that your employer cannot claim that you were requesting a more expensive accommodation than what you were actually requesting; if you do this, there will also be a written record of when you submitted the request. If you and your employer disagree about whether the proposed accommodation is reasonable, you can enter a dispute resolution process to agree on a reasonable and affordable accommodation.
Employment Discrimination Against People With Disabilities in Arizona
Many discrimination cases related to racial, religious, or gender discrimination have to do with refusal to hire employees with a particular protected characteristic or hostile behavior toward employees with this characteristic, in the form of derogatory comments and offensive jokes. These types of actions can certainly take place with disability discrimination, but in the case of discrimination based on disability, refusal or failure to provide reasonable accommodations upon request also counts as discrimination. Likewise, you have the right to file a complaint against your employer if they retaliate against you (such as by firing you or giving you an unfairly negative performance review) after you request a disability accommodation. The law also protects you from retaliation if you participate in an investigation into a complaint filed against your employer by another employee to whom the employer did not provide reasonable accommodations when required to do so.
Contact an Arizona Employment Lawyer About Disability Accommodations
Even though there is more public discussion about living with a disability than there was in the past, you may still face an uphill battle in getting the accommodations you need from your employer. An employment discrimination lawyer can help you request a reasonable accommodation and follow up with the next steps if your employer does not provide it in a timely manner. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Phoenix, Arizona to set up a consultation.