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What should employers know about reasonable accommodations?

On Behalf of | Apr 8, 2024 | Employment Law

Alaska employers large and small, have many federal, state and local laws that they must make sure they comply with. Compliance with these laws, or lack thereof, can have a material impact on an organization’s day-to-day productivity.

For example, one major federal law that our readers have surely heard of is the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is commonly referred to simply as the ADA.

ADA and reasonable accommodations

The ADA, at its heart, is intended to protect employees and potential employees from discrimination based on a physical or mental disability. The protections under the ADA for employees and potential employees take many different forms and, as a result, there are many areas for employers to make missteps if they aren’t careful.

One ADA protection for employees is the requirement for employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees’ disabilities. So, what does that term actually mean?

As noted on the website for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “reasonable accommodations” basically means that the employer must change the way things are usually done in the workplace in order to accommodate an employee’s disability.

As our readers can probably imagine, the question of what is reasonable is somewhat subjective and can manifest in many different ways.

Examples are: providing wheelchair accessibility; changing schedules; providing technological assistance; or allowing tele-work options. However, there is one crucial aspect of the requirement to provide reasonable accommodations: doing so must not be an undue hardship for the employer.

“Undue hardship” is itself a somewhat subjective term. In essence, the EEOC defines an undue hardship as something that would be unreasonably expensive or difficult for the employer to provide. However, that is usually dependent on the employer’s capabilities and financial resources.