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Is There a Price Limit To Reasonable Accommodation For Disabilities?

December 19, 2020
By Haeggquist & Eck

Employees with disabilities are afforded a number of rights and protections thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other legislation at the federal and state levels. Among the most important protections these employees have is the right to request reasonable accommodation when they require assistance to fulfill essential functions in their roles at work.

Conditions where disability accommodation may be required include: (1) a physical or mental disability; (2) medical condition, or (3) pregnancy.

Reasonable accommodation can include the following and more:

  • Reserving a parking spot near the worksite entrance (if handicapped parking is full or unavailable)
  • Adjusting how an office space is laid out to accommodate wheelchairs and other mobility aids
  • Special software that compensates for blindness, deafness, or other sensory disabilities
  • Special furniture intended to accommodate a disability
  • Swapping non-essential duties with a coworker if they are too burdensome for the disabled employee to perform
  • Increasing the frequency or duration of a disabled employee’s breaks
  • Establishing an alternative work schedule to accommodate matters related to the employee’s disability

The circumstances under which an employer can successfully deny a reasonable accommodation request are typically very limited. Employees, however, must make their employers aware of their disability and need for reasonable accommodation in order to request it. In most cases, employers are typically obligated to comply or work with an employee to establish mutually aggregable arrangements.

What Does Reasonable Accommodation Typically Cost?

Many types of reasonable accommodation cost employers nothing to implement, while others can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Despite this wide discrepancy, or perhaps because of it, there is no established limit to what reasonable accommodation can cost.

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN), however, cites that nearly 56 percent of employers reported that reasonable accommodation was implemented without cost. Around 39 percent of employers said accommodation was a one-time cost, the median of which was about $500. Interestingly, these same employers indicated that the cost of accommodation for an employee exceeded the typical expenditures for an employee without a disability by a nearly negligible amount (about $20 more).

Because most accommodation can be implemented at either no cost or for reasonably low costs, employers who attempt to deny reasonable accommodation must have a strong argument for doing so. Ultimately, this means they must prove that accommodating an employee’s disability presents undue hardship on the whole company – and it can be very difficult to do so.

Employees with disabilities should feel empowered to make their needs known to their employers, which are typically obligated to comply with nearly any reasonable accommodation request. Those employers that fail to do so – and especially without proving substantial hardship – may be named in a disability discrimination lawsuit and liable for damages.

Do You Need Legal Assistance?

If your request for reasonable accommodation was denied by your employer, reach out to Haeggquist & Eck, LLP for help. Our attorneys represent employee clients in a wide range of employment law disputes, including those involving disability discrimination. We can provide the legal representation you need to achieve the best possible outcome by confronting your employer with legal action.

Learn more about what Haeggquist & Eck, LLP can do for you by scheduling a free initial consultation with our attorneys. Get in touch with us online or by calling (619) 468-5222 today!

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