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How far does reasonable accommodation go?

On Behalf of | Oct 31, 2017 | Employment Law

Georgia and federal law prohibit employers from discriminating on the basis of a disability. As a corollary to this rule, the law also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to enable disabled employees to do their jobs.

Most often, the employee must take the first step of requesting needed accommodation. If this request does not occur, the employer will usually not bear the responsibility for the employee’s ensuing difficulties. As with all other important communications, it is best to make this request in writing in order to avoid misunderstandings and have dated documentation in case of later disputes.

Accommodation should help the employee do the job

Generally, accommodations should aim to make it possible for the employee to perform the major functions of his or her position. Sometimes, reasonable accommodation could include making some changes to the employee’s schedule or job duties. For example, a flexible schedule or reduced hours could be possible. In other cases, minor tasks could be assigned to a different employee.

Common kinds of accommodations

Other types of accommodations could include providing assistive devices or ensuring wheelchair accessibility. Typically, an employer does not have to provide a device for use in the employee’s personal life or something the employee would need anyway, even without the employment. Thus, an employee who needs specialized glasses to function in everyday life would usually not get them from the employer as an accommodation. However, a device needed specifically to perform a job function, such as a screen reader for a work computer, is more likely to be the employer’s responsibility.

Burden on the employer

The law does not require employers to provide accommodations that would involve undue burden or expense. Whether this would be the case depends on the specific situation. A large company may find it relatively simple to change one employee’s schedule, while a small business may not be able to function properly if one of its three employees cannot work a full business day.