How do I request accommodation?

The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Michigan Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act entitle disabled employees to reasonable accommodations to perform essential job functions, provided the accommodations do not create an undue hardship for the employer.  If you are a disabled employee who cannot perform your job functions without some sort of accommodation, you have a right to request that your employer take reasonable steps to accommodate you.  However, the results of this request may vary.

A disability is defined as an indefinite condition that impacts a major life function.  A missing arm is a disability, even though you may have or may later get a prosthetic, because it is a condition that is expected to last indefinitely.  A broken arm is not a disability, even though it also means your arm cannot be used, because the expectation is that it will heal within a certain amount of time.  In order for your employer to have a duty to accommodate you, you must have a condition that meets the statutory definition of a disability.  An employer may decide to accommodate a temporary condition but does not have an obligation to do so.

Assuming you have a disability, and assuming your disability prevents you from performing at least one essential function of your job, you should request accommodation in writing.  Technically under the Americans with Disabilities Act a request can be verbal, but a request in writing is always better when possible.  You will likely need to include paperwork from your medical provider that describes your disability and restrictions.  Once your employer has all the information needed for your request, the employer has a duty to make an effort to find a reasonable accommodation, if possible.

It’s important to note that you are not necessarily entitled to the accommodation of your choice.  For example, assume you have a disability that prevents you from sitting for more than twenty minutes at a time and you work at a desk in an office setting.  You may request an accommodation of being allowed to take a break every twenty minutes so you can walk around the office.  Your employer could instead provide you with a sit-stand desk so that you are not seated for longer than twenty minutes.  It’s not the accommodation you wanted, but it is an accommodation that works with your stated restrictions and your employer would have satisfied their obligation under the federal and state disability laws.

It’s also important to note that a reasonable accommodation may not always be possible.  It is anticipated that an accommodation will be an inconvenience, but an employer only has to go so far to provide accommodations.  An employer never has to offer a change of position or displace another employee in order to accommodate a disability.  Accommodations that create a financial hardship for an employer or drastically inconvenience your coworkers are not required as a matter of law.  Sometimes, despite everyone’s best efforts, a reasonable accommodation is not possible.

Accommodating disabilities can be very complicated.  What accommodations are reasonable can vary from situation to situation, and even a determination as to what constitutes a disability can be different for different people.  If you have a disability and require accommodation it is important to inform your employer and do everything you can to protect your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act.

For help with your disability accommodation situation, call Gold Star Law today.