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ADA & Other Accommodations in the Workplace

Most of us hear the word “accommodations” and think primarily of disabled people and the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). ADA accommodations in the workplace are guaranteed to disabled workers within reason. These can help individuals perform the job they were hired to do. There are other characteristics beyond disability for which accommodations can be requested as well. Employers are generally obligated to honor those requests unless they are found to be unreasonable. If you are in a position where your needs are not being met, you may have a case for discrimination.

Do Not Be Afraid To Ask for Accommodation

While disabled people are the primary group addressed when discussing accommodations in the workplace, other discrete minorities may also be in need. Religious accommodation is common, for example, as is accommodation for pregnancy or gender identity. If you are in a situation where you believe you would perform better if given access to accommodations and you are a member of any of these groups, you have the right to ask for them. There are exceptions under Title VII where your requests may not be granted, however. Generally, an employer can decline a request for accommodations if they can show that granting it would be an undue hardship. Without this finding, you must receive accommodations for what you need.

While the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) lacks the manpower and ability to handle every charge filed with them, it is still generally a good idea to file a charge if you genuinely believe you have been mistreated. A charge will either be taken up by the EEOC, referred to mediation, or you will receive a letter granting you the right to sue, usually in federal court depending on the nature of your employer. This can be intimidating, but exercising your rights is protected speech in most cases, meaning that you cannot be legally retaliated against for doing so.

Different Standards, Different Characteristics

One important distinction that one must keep in mind is that one must meet certain standards in order to receive them. For example, religious accommodations, such as leaving early for prayers or being permitted to wear religious headgear, should be granted if it is not an “undue hardship,” which is the same language as in the ADA. However, “undue hardship” is defined differently.

Under the ADA, a disabled worker’s request for accommodation should be honored if it does not cause “significant difficulty or expense.” This is a different standard than the one for honoring religious accommodations. If a religious accommodation causes more than a “de minimis cost or burden,” it has a good chance at being deemed an undue hardship. The rationale is that religion is not in theory immutable. If one had a choice, one could change one’s religion—but someone who is disabled cannot change that.

Contact A Knowledgeable Employment Attorney

The field of employment law is complex and has a deep history. Getting involved in an employment-based lawsuit can cause real, long-term difficulty for you and your family if it does not go your way. The skilled Charleston employment discrimination attorneys at the firm of Hitchcock & Potts will do our best to assist you with your case.

Contact us today to set up an initial consultation.


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