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I have a disability. What does it mean to get a reasonable accommodation?

If you have a disability and are seeking accommodations, you will be happy to know that there are laws that will ensure you are granted all warranted accommodations. The law is employee-friendly, but many employers simply do not know the law or get it wrong. Here is what you should know if you are considering requesting a reasonable accommodation.

Who is eligible for a reasonable accommodation at work?

According to the law, a person with a disability is eligible for a reasonable accommodation at work. While this may sound very simple, how federal and state laws choose to define a "person with a disability" is complex. According to these laws, the disability must impede on the ability of the individual to participate in major life activities. These disabilities can be physical or mental impairments.

Some examples of major life activities include self-care, the ability to acquire and maintain property, communication and employment. In general, the average population will have no trouble performing major life activities. Also, any conditions that are temporary or acute are excluded from qualification as a "disability." For example, a broken bone is not considered a disability. However, alcoholism may be considered a disability.

What counts as a reasonable accommodation?

The term "reasonable accommodation" refers to any adjustment or modification that helps a person with a disability hold or keep a job. An example of a reasonable accommodation would be changing the location of a job interview for greater accessibility. Another example is the construction of entry ramps to the workplace. Reasonable accommodations allow disabled people to enjoy equal access to benefits.

An accommodation is deemed unreasonable when it causes an undue hardship for the employer.

How can employees request an accommodation?

Since employers cannot discuss medically related issues with potential employees, it is necessary for the applicant with the disability to inquire about accommodations. While an employer can ask for medical verification from the applicant about the disability, the employer cannot require the job applicant to take a medical examination unless said applicant has received a job offer.

You can request an accommodation at any time, whether you are an applicant or already employed. It is a good idea to request an accommodation before your job duties begin to suffer or you face disciplinary action for not meeting traditional expectations.

To request an accommodation, simply tell your supervisor that you need a change due to your medical condition. There are no legal requirements for how to ask for this accommodation - you don't even have to use the term, "reasonable accommodation," but it could help you to do so. It is a good idea to put your request in writing in case your employer refuses to accept it.

What can employees do if employers refuse to grant requests for accommodations?

Applicants must give employers a reasonable amount of time to fulfill requests for accommodation. If your employer refuses to grant your requests, you can do a number of things. You can file a complaint with the internal grievance process of the corporation or your union. Every state also has institutions where you can file complaints. Usually, you must file a complaint within a certain period of time. A lawyer can help you understand your options.

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