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What Is Reasonable Accommodation?

What Is Reasonable Accommodation?

In 2012, Vitas HealthCare in Miami paid $65,000 to resolve a disability discrimination lawsuit and agreed to amend its reasonable accommodation policy. Eveline Chery, a hospice nurse, became unable to perform the responsibilities of her role due to her high blood pressure. Her position required a lot of driving to and from hospices, so she asked to be reassigned to a vacant position at the company. Despite being qualified for the position, Vitas refused to accommodate her needs. Failing to provide Eveline the reasonable accommodation of switching roles was a direct violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  



What Is the ADA? 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law—enacted in 1990 and amended in 2008—that protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination in public places, transportation, jobs, schools, and businesses open to the public. The purpose of the law is to ensure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

Under the ADA, a person with a disability is someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. 

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), to be protected from job discrimination under ADA, an individual must satisfy the employer’s requirements for the job (like education, experience, skills/licenses), and must be able to perform the essential functions of the job, with or without reasonable accommodation. 


What Is Reasonable Accommodation? 

Employers with 15 or more employees are required to provide reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities. A reasonable accommodation is any adjustment to a role or work environment that enables a qualified individual with a disability to participate in the employee lifecycle, including the job application process, performing the essential functions of the job, and enjoying full benefits and employment privileges. 

Reasonable accommodations remove productivity barriers and allow individuals with disabilities equal opportunity to get jobs and successfully perform their tasks. Types of reasonable accommodations include:

  • Providing an ASL interpreter during an interview 
  • Making materials available in Braille or large print
  • Allowing a service animal in a business setting 
  • Adjusting the layout of a workspace to accommodate a wheelchair
  • Installing ramps
  • Allowing employees with chronic conditions to leave early for consistent appointments
  • Modifying training materials
  • Modifying equipment or devices 
  • Modifying schedules


Is an Employer Required to Provide Reasonable Accommodations?

An employer must provide reasonable accommodations, free of charge to the employee, unless they can prove that providing it would cause an undue difficulty and expense on the organization. According to the EEOC, a reasonable accommodation is considered an “undue hardship” on the employer if any of the following apply:

  • Providing the accommodation would result in significant difficulty or expense
  • Providing the accommodation would be unduly extensive or disruptive 
  • Providing the accommodation would fundamentally alter business operations or disrupt other employees’ ability to work

In the Vitas HealthCare case, modifying the nature of Eveline’s work was not seen as an undue hardship on the company, and thus the EEOC won the lawsuit.

Nevertheless, if an employer cannot provide a reasonable accommodation due to financial expenses, they must give the employee or job candidate the choice to provide their own accommodations or help pay for them. However, the cost of the accommodations may not be taken from the employee’s paycheck or factored into their salary decision. 


Additional Resources

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  • BernieU—free online HR courses, approved for SHRM and HRCI recertification credit
  • BerniePortal Blog—a one-stop shop for HR industry news
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  • Resource Library—essential guides covering a comprehensive list of HR topics
  • HR Party of One—our popular YouTube series and podcast, covering emerging HR trends and enduring HR topics
  • Community—the HR Party of One Community forum, a place devoted to HR professionals to ask questions, learn more, and help others


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