What Disability Accommodations Must My Employer Provide?
May 9, 2023
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 was landmark federal legislation protecting the rights of individuals with physical or mental conditions that may have limited their rights in the workplace and in public facilities. The ADA now protects job applicants and workers who are disabled, who are viewed as disabled even if not, or who have a history or record of such an impairment.
Well before the ADA, the State of West Virginia had passed its own Rehabilitation Act in 1973. Language contained in Section 504 of that act concerning disability rights such as “reasonable modification, reasonable accommodation, and undue burden” later became integrated into federal legislation as basic rights for those facing disabilities.
If you as an employee or job applicant in or around Charleston, West Virginia, feel that your rights under the ADA have been violated, contact the employment law attorneys at Atkinson & Polak, PLLC. Our attorneys have been protecting the rights of employees for more than 25 years, and we will pursue all legal options to see that you enjoy the full benefits of the ADA and other applicable state and local laws.
We proudly serve clients throughout Charleston, including Morgantown, Huntington, Beckley, Martinsburg, and Parkersburg. Set up a consultation today.
The Americans with Disabilities Act: Who Is Covered?
The ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act, covers all state and local government agencies as well as private employers with 15 or more employees.
The ADA covers anyone with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, such as hearing, seeing, speaking, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, caring for oneself, and learning or working. It also protects those who are perceived to be so impaired whether they are or are not, as well as those with a history of such an impairment.
The ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008 further expanded the list of major life activities to include reading, bending, and communicating, as well as major bodily functions such as the immune system, normal cell growth, and digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.
The ADA protections begin with the recruiting and hiring process and extend through employment and even termination to prevent discrimination because of a real or perceived disability, and also to provide for what are called “reasonable accommodations” so any person with an impairment can better perform the duties required.
Note, however, that a job applicant must be qualified to perform the essential functions of the job before being hired. For instance, you must have the education and/or training to do the job being advertised with or without reasonable accommodation. An employer, moreover, cannot refuse to hire you because your disability prevents you from performing duties that are not essential to the job.
What Is a Reasonable Accommodation?
Reasonable accommodations can occur throughout the employment process. A reasonable accommodation can even be asked for during the hiring stage. For instance, if applicants are required to take a test, but because of your mental or physical impairment, you may need longer than others to do so, you can request an accommodation for that purpose.
Once on the job, an employee with a physical or mental impairment can also request a reasonable accommodation. Reasonable is probably the operative word since an employer can turn down such a request if it places an “undue hardship” on the business.
However, most reasonable accommodations, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) which oversees ADA compliance, are relatively inexpensive and easy to accomplish.
Reasonable accommodations might include modifications to a workspace, installing a ramp, providing screen reading software, making materials available in large print or even Braille, allowing service animals, and adjusting work schedules so employees can meet medical and treatment schedules.
The EEOC, which can mandate work modifications if an employer denies one that is not an undue hardship, maintains that 31 percent of all reasonable accommodations cost nothing. 50 percent cost less than $50, 69 percent cost less than $500, and 88 percent cost less than $1,000.
Can an Employer Ask for Proof of a Disability?
During the job screening/interviewing process, an employer cannot enquire about a disability. Only when a job offer is made can a medical condition come into focus, and then only if all candidates for the same position are required to undergo the same questioning or medical screening.
Once on the job, if you as an employee want to request a reasonable accommodation, the employer may be able to ask for some kind of documentation of your impairment. The employer, however, must keep that documentation confidential and only share it, if necessary, with supervisors or managers who need to know your limitations and needs. The employer must otherwise keep such medical documentation in complete confidentiality and separate it from access by those with no need to know.
Seek Legal Counsel with Your ADA Questions and Concerns
If you as an employee or job applicant in Charleston or elsewhere in West Virginia feel your rights under the ADA and state and local laws have been violated, contact us immediately at Atkinson & Polak, PLLC. Our attorneys have more than 80 combined years of experience in employment law, and we stand ready to protect and preserve your rights as an employee.