When an employee comes to you and requests accommodations for a disability, you may have more questions than answers. Naturally, if your employee's disabling condition is obvious, you may have taken steps on your own to provide what he or she needs to complete the job successfully. However, not every disability is visible, and you may wonder how far your responsibility goes.
Under the rules in the Americans with Disabilities Act, people with disabling conditions have special rights that protect them from discrimination at every stage of their employment. Having a good understanding of what this means can protect you from claims of discrimination when your employee asks you to adapt the work environment to his or her needs.
Understanding ADA rules
According to the ADA rules, employers must make reasonable accommodations that will allow a qualified employee to perform the duties of the job despite a disability. The law is intentionally vague about what constitutes a reasonable accommodation because each situation is unique. Some general elements related to reasonable accommodations include the following:
- The employee requesting the changes should already have the skills, education and training to complete the major aspects of the job.
- Accommodations assist the employee with incidental functions.
- Accommodations must not place undue strain on other employees.
- The alterations should take every precaution not to isolate the employee, bring attention to the disability or make other employees feel the individual is receiving special treatment.
- The outcome of the task should meet job expectations regardless of the accommodations.
- The accommodations must not place undue hardship on you or your Alabama business, for example financially.
Ideally, you and the employee can come up with a plan for accommodating the disabling condition. This may mean making physical changes to the office space or arranging a meeting place so your employee does not need to take the stairs. Your employee may need special equipment for an auditory or visual impairment or simply a more flexible schedule to allow for medical appointments or therapy.
You may feel there is a fine line between reasonable accommodations for your employee and a hardship for you. On the other hand, you may be looking for advice to make the most positive environment for those with special needs while remaining in compliance with the law. Speaking with an employment law professional can provide you with answers to your questions and a better understanding of the ADA and what is expected of you as an employer.