What Is a “Reasonable Accommodation” For a “Disability”?

The term “reasonable accommodation” has a specific meaning in employment law. It arises in the context of disability discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, and religious discrimination. Here I will discuss its meaning in the context of disability discrimination by an employer against an employee or job applicant.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq. provides, inter alia, that prohibited discrimination under the statute

includes … not making reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability who is an applicant or employee, unless such covered entity can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the business of such covered entity[.][1]42 USCA § 12112(b)(5)(A). (Emphasis added.)

The statute provides[2]42 USCA § 12111(9). that the term “reasonable accommodations” includes:

  • making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities,
  • job restructuring,
  • part-time or modified work schedules,
  • reassignment to a vacant position,
  • acquisition or modification of equipment or devices,
  • appropriate adjustment or modifications of examinations,
  • training materials or policies,
  • the provision of qualified readers or interpreters, and
  • other similar accommodations for individuals with disabilities.

“A reasonable accommodation can never involve the elimination of an essential function of a job.”[3]Roa v. Staples, 2017 WL 3425779 (SDNY Aug. 9, 2017).

The New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) and the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) likewise require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for disabilities under certain circumstances.

For example, it has been held that “a temporary leave of absence, even an extended leave, can be a reasonable accommodation” and that “there is no accommodation (whether it be indefinite leave time or any other need created by a disability) that is categorically excluded from the universe of reasonable accommodation.” Scott v. ProClaim America, Inc., 2017 WL 1208437 (EDNY March 31, 2017) (addressing the NYSHRL).

1 42 USCA § 12112(b)(5)(A).
2 42 USCA § 12111(9).
3 Roa v. Staples, 2017 WL 3425779 (SDNY Aug. 9, 2017).
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