What is a reasonable accommodation under the ADA?

The ADA goes beyond most other anti-discrimination statutes.  In addition to prohibiting discrimination against qualified disabled individuals, it mandates that, in some circumstances, employers must make special accommodations for such individuals.  Such accommodations need only be made if they are reasonable and do not impose an “undue hardship” on the employer.  This is perhaps one of the most challenging dynamics employers face because what constitutes “reasonable” and “undue hardship” is determined on a case-by-case basis and is almost always a judgment call.  Some situations are easy, but many are not. 

For example, suppose an employee with terrible eyesight requests that the employer provide an extra-large computer monitor.  Even though purchasing such a monitor would be an additional cost, the cost would probably not rise to the level of undue hardship; thus, the purchase is probably a reasonable accommodation that the employer must make. 

On the other hand, consider the case of an assembly line worker who has muscular dystrophy and cannot keep pace with production.  The employee asks the employer to relax his quota so that he is allowed a slower pace of production.  The allowance would affect the entire assembly line, impacting the factory’s production.  In this instance, the employer likely would not have to make the accommodation requested by the employee because doing so would indeed cause an undue hardship on the business.  However, that is not to say that the parties could not explore other accommodations.  Indeed, they should.

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The information herein is not legal advice. The information is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter discussed.  The above is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship.