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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission - Employment Guidance

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  • Synopsis: EEOC provides people with disabilities guidance related to rights and responsibilities of employers regarding reasonable accommodations and undue hardship - Published: 2010-01-15 (Rev. 2014-11-28). For further information pertaining to this article contact: Disabled World at Disabled World.

Main Document

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provides people who experience disabilities with guidance related to their rights and the responsibilities of employers regarding reasonable accommodations and undue hardship.

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified persons with disabilities they employ, as well as applicants for employment, except when providing such accommodations would cause them undue hardship. The guidance the EEOC provides sets forth the legal obligations of an employer where reasonable accommodations are concerned. There is nothing; however, that states that an employer may not provide more than the law requires.

The guidance provided by the EEOC examines the meaning behind, 'reasonable accommodation,' as well as who is entitled to receive it. The guidance also addresses what constitutes a request for reasonable accommodation, as well as the substance and form of a request. The EEOC's guidance approaches the ability of an employer to ask questions or seek documentation once a request has been made.

Reasonable accommodations which are applicable to the hiring process, as well as to the privileges of employment and benefits are discussed in the the guidance, which also covers various types of reasonable accommodations that are related to job performance. The guidance discusses accommodations that are related to leave, job restructuring, modified workplace policies, modified or part-time schedules, and reassignment as well. The guidance produced by the EEOC examines questions concerning the relationship between the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) as they affect both modified schedules and leave. Issues related to reassignment that are addressed in the guidance include ones concerning the interplay between reasonable accommodations and conduct rules. In the final section of the guidance, hardship is discussed, including when requests for leave and schedule modifications may be denied.

The EEOC and, 'Reasonable Accommodation'

The fact that Title I of the ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees and job applicants with disabilities unless it would cause undue hardship means, 'In general, an accommodation is any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities.' The EEOC states that there are three categories of reasonable accommodations.

  • Modifications or adjustments to a job application process that enable a qualified applicant with a disability to be considered for the position such qualified applicant desires.
  • Modifications or adjustments to the work environment, or to the manner or circumstances under which the position held or desired is customarily performed, that enable a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of that position.
  • Modifications or adjustments that enable a covered entity's employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment as are enjoyed by its other similarly situated employees without disabilities.

An employer's duty to provide people with disabilities with reasonable accommodations is a fundamental statutory requirement because of the nature of discrimination faced by people with disabilities in America. While many people with disabilities can both apply for and perform jobs without any reasonable accommodations, there are workplace barriers that prevent others from performing jobs they can do with some form of accommodation. The barriers a person with a disability might face could be physical obstacles, such as a facility that is inaccessible, or equipment. There may also be rules or procedures, such as rules related to when work is to be performed, how either essential or marginal functions are performed, or when breaks are taken, that present barriers. Reasonable accommodations remove workplace barriers for people with disabilities.

Reasonable accommodations are available to qualified employees and applicants with disabilities, and must be provided to them regardless of whether they work full-time, part-time, or are considered, 'probationary.' In general, the person with a disability must inform their employer that an accommodation is needed. There are a number of potential reasonable accommodations that an employer might have to provide in connection to the work environment, or adjustments in either how or when a job is performed.

These accommodations include:

  • Job restructuring
  • Acquiring or modifying equipment
  • Reassignment to a vacant position
  • Making existing facilities accessible
  • Part-time or modified work schedules
  • Providing qualified readers or interpreters
  • Changing tests, training materials, or policies

An adjustment or modification is deemed, 'reasonable' if it, 'seems reasonable on its face, i.e. ordinarily or in the run of cases.' What this means is that the adjustment or modification is reasonable if it appears to be feasible, or plausible. Accommodations also must be effective in that they meet the needs of the person with a disability. In the context of job performance, what this means is that the reasonable accommodation enables the person with a disability to perform the essential functions of their position. A reasonable accommodation enables an applicant with a disability to have an equal opportunity to participate in the application process, as well as to be considered for the job position. A reasonable accommodation allows an employee with a disability an equal opportunity to enjoy both the benefits and the privileges of employment that employees without disabilities enjoy.

The guidance produced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission contains several chapters, all of which are available online for employers, employees, as well as applicants to review.

The chapters contained in the guidance include:

  • Introduction
  • General Principles
  • Requesting Reasonable Accommodation
  • Reasonable Accommodation and Job Applicants
  • Reasonable Accommodation Related to the Benefits and Privileges of Employment
  • Types of Reasonable Accommodations Related to Job Performance
  • Job Restructuring
  • Leave
  • Modified or Part-Time Schedule
  • Modified Workplace Policies
  • Reassignment
  • Other Reasonable Accommodation Issues
  • Undue Hardship Issues
  • Burdens of Proof
  • Instructions for Investigators
  • Appendix: Resources for Locating Reasonable Accommodations
  • Index







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