Business owners and company management must be educated about certain aspects of employment law or they will risk unintentionally violating principles that could lead to litigation. Just as companies must understand what compliance reports to file so that they can mitigate the risk of being fined by the government, so must they understand the rights afforded to their employees in order to mitigate the risk of employment litigation filed by those employees down the line.
As an experienced employment litigation lawyer – including those who practice at Eric Siegel Law – can confirm, one of the most frequently misunderstood areas of employment law concerns the concept of “reasonable accommodations.” Under Title One of the Americans with Disabilities Act, applicants and employees of U.S. businesses are entitled to reasonable accommodations in the event that their disability prevents them from participating in equal opportunity within the hiring process, empowering them—if they are qualified to do the job in question—to perform the essential functions of a job, and enjoying equal benefits and privileges of employment.
What does this mean practically? It means that unless a modification would cause “undue hardship” to the employer, reasonable accommodations must be implemented to benefit disabled applicants and employees. Modifications that may be requested as reasonable accommodations may manifest in a variety of ways. An applicant may need to have an interpreter present in an interview setting if they are applying for a writing-based position and are deaf or hard of hearing. A workspace may need to be adjusted to accommodate for a physical disability. A chronically ill employee may need to have a somewhat flexible schedule to allow for trips to seek treatment. Essentially, if a modification allows an applicant or employee to benefit from the statutory rights listed above and that modification doesn’t cause undue hardship to an employer, it must be honored.
When companies fail to provide reasonable accommodations to applicants and/or employees, they may be held legally liable and may be vulnerable to government-related consequences as well. It is additionally important to note that if a company retaliates against an applicant or employee for requesting a reasonable accommodation or complaining about inadequate implementation of the reasonable accommodation in question, that could leave the company legally vulnerable to consequences as well. Finally, it is even possible to be held legally accountable for a failure to discuss reasonable accommodations with a worker or applicant in a proactive manner. If your business isn’t yet “up to speed” on this subject, it could be beneficial to speak with an attorney who can guide your reasonable accommodation policies.