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What does it mean that an employer must accommodate workers?

Individuals with disabilities require protections in relation to school, work and public transportation. In 1990, the federal government passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is a civil rights law ensuring people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. 

Part of the law states that employers must make reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities. The language in this provision is a bit vague, and the word "reasonable" can have different meanings to different people. It comes down to the court to decide whether a workplace failed to provide accommodations deemed reasonable, but there are general guidelines both employers and employees should remain aware of. 

Employers cannot commit discriminatory conduct

There are certain actions bosses cannot take when they have an employee with a disability. They cannot deny the individual certain opportunities, such as limiting the role that person has in the organization and passing the person over for promotions. When it comes to the hiring process, employers cannot take a person's disability into consideration so long as the person is able to perform the basic duties of the job. 

Concept of undue hardship

The ADA does include language, which states that employers are exempt from making certain accommodations if it would create an undue hardship on the company. Certain factors a court would consider include the cost of the accommodation, the total number of workers at the business and whether certain operations would require suspension until the accommodation was complete. 

A general consensus

Constructing a wheelchair ramp to enter the building may cost upwards of $2,500. A court may find that to be too much money for a small business that barely breaks even every month, but a Fortune 500 company would have no problem making that investment. Before seeking legal help, it is paramount for the disabled individual to speak with the employer to clearly address what accommodations are necessary. 

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