We Protect Workers

When can employers refuse to accommodate a worker’s disabilities?

Disability discrimination can occur in a variety of ways. Some companies won’t hire or promote workers with disabling medical conditions. Other businesses may pay workers with disabilities less than others. Occasionally, management at a business will turn a blind eye to a hostile work environment where coworkers abuse someone and prevent them from safely and effectively doing their job.

However, one of the most pervasive forms of disability discrimination involves a company refusing to provide support for a worker with a disabling health condition. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) extends the right to request reasonable accommodations to workers with conditions that affect their job performance. Yet, sometimes companies refuse to allow a worker to do their job from home, switch to different responsibilities or use assistive technology.

When can an employer lawfully deny accommodation requests?

When the accommodation creates an undue hardship

The average business can absorb an assortment of different accommodation requests with minimal disruptions. Whether a worker needs a wheelchair ramp to enter an office building or an accessible bathroom, a company large enough to be subject to ADA requirements can typically absorb those expenses.

There are certain circumstances that would justify a business refusing a worker’s accommodation requests. Typically, the organization would need to prove that the request imposes an undue hardship on the business. When evaluating a claim of undue hardship, the courts would consider a variety of factors.

They would look at the total expense involved in providing accommodations and compare that to the company’s overall scope of operations. The courts will also consider whether the accommodations would prove disruptive to daily work for other employees. The degree of expense involved and the amount of disruption generated by an accommodation request will influence whether the courts agree with the claim that the business had justification to deny the request.

Refusing to accommodate a worker without a legally valid justification could potentially constitute disability discrimination. A worker who cannot perform their job safely or continue their employment because of denied accommodations may have grounds for a lawsuit against the business that refused to provide them with reasonable accommodations.