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What Exactly Is A ‘Reasonable’ Accommodation?

A phrase that employers and employees both will commonly hear when discussing employment law is “reasonable accommodations.” More than one state and federal antidiscrimination law – among them, the South Carolina Human Affairs Law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), state that an employer must accommodate an employee’s protected characteristic as long as the accommodation is “reasonable.” However, the definition of ‘reasonable’ varies wildly between employers. If you have a need for accommodation, be aware that one size does not always fit all.

If you have a need for accommodation an experience lawyer may be able to help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Religious Accommodations

There are two major situations in the workplace where reasonable accommodations are most often asked for. One is regarding religion; Title VII holds that those with “sincerely held religious beliefs,” whether part of an organized religion or not, must be accommodated as long as it does not create an undue burden on their employer. This also includes atheists; for example, an employer cannot force an atheist employee to be present during a team prayer breakfast.

It is crucial to understand that the popularity of the religion is not the issue; rather, if the employee’s beliefs are clearly sincere, that should decide things. If you belong to a lesser-known religion or sect, you have the same right to accommodation as a Christian, Muslim, or Jew. That said, your employer has the same right to determine that a requested accommodation is unreasonable, relative to their business size and capability. As long as the determination is made in good faith, it will generally be accepted from a legal standpoint.

Accommodations For Disability

The other common situation where reasonable accommodations may be necessary in the workplace is in dealing with a disabled worker. This includes pregnant women, as under South Carolina law, pregnancy is considered a temporary disability. The ADA requires employers who have 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations for disabled workers. It also has its own definition of a ‘reasonable accommodation’ that differs slightly from Title VII’s.

Under the ADA, a “reasonable accommodation” is one that changes the application or hiring process, the job (or the way it is done), or the work environment, so that a disabled worker can perform the essential functions of the job and “enjoy equal employment opportunities.” This may include things like flexible schedules, extra eye or ear protection, or changing a ‘no animals’ policy to allow a service dog. As with Title VII, accommodations must be granted if they do not pose an undue hardship to the employer.

Get Legal Help

The law is very clear about requiring employers to accommodate those whose needs are reasonable, so that they can have ‘equal employment opportunities.’ If you believe that you have been discriminated against based on your need for accommodations, calling a South Carolina employment discrimination attorney may be of help in determining what your rights are. Attorney A. Christopher Potts and the firm of Hitchcock & Potts are well versed in these cases and will try and help with yours. Call our office today to schedule a consultation.

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