We Protect Workers

How to talk to your boss about reasonable accommodations

Whether you were just recently diagnosed with a disability or you’ve been struggling in silence for a while, you have to eventually talk to your employer if you want accommodation so that you can keep working. Most people don’t find it easy to discuss personal issues with their employers, and they find it even harder to ask their employers for “special” treatment.

You need to remember that you aren’t asking for anything unreasonable. You’re just asking for the tools you need so that you can get your job done.

Where do you start? Consider these tips

First, identify the right person for this conversation. It could be your immediate supervisor, your manager, the company’s human resources department or the owner. Then:

  1. Approach the conversation as a win-win. You want to keep working. Your employer wants you to do a good job. Reasonable accommodations will make both of those things happen. Your positive attitude can help make this conversation smoother.
  2. Watch your language. You don’t need to walk into the meeting and immediately mention the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in order to get what you need. You don’t even have to say “reasonable accommodations.” In fact, avoiding that terminology can help keep the conversation from becoming adversarial.
  3. Have some goals in mind. Your employer can’t just guess what you need. In order to determine if the accommodations you want are reasonable, your employer needs to hear what struggles   you’re having and what you think would help you overcome them.

For example, imagine that you are undergoing chemo treatments and your immune system is seriously compromised. You also have significant problems with nausea and dizziness that make driving to and from work very difficult. However, you work at a computer and could do your job remotely. It could be perfectly reasonable to ask your employer for that accommodation.

If you’ve been denied reasonable accommodations, it may be time to consider the next steps you should take to protect your future.