The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) is a federal law that requires most employers to provide reasonable accommodations to applicants and employees with disabilities.  Similarly, the Rehabilitation Act requires accommodations for disabled employees of federal government agencies, federal contractors and subcontractors, and employers receiving federal financial assistance.

This article will focus on the ADA, which is regulated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), an agency of the United States government.  

When must an employer make reasonable accommodations under the ADA?

  • The employer is a private company with 15 or more employees, or a state or local government.


  • An employee has a disability and is qualified to perform the essential functions of the job. However, the employee needs accommodation(s) to do so. The employer must make an accommodation if it is reasonable.
    • Accommodations can include providing certain equipment/devices, a modified schedule, reassignment to a vacant position, making a workspace accessible, anting leave time (in certain circumstances), modifying non-essential job duties, allowing work from home, etc.


  • Additionally, job applicants are covered by the ADA.  Accommodations must be provided to disabled individuals to allow participation in the process of being considered for a job.
    • For example, an employer may need to provide a sign language interpreter for a deaf applicant’s interview.

Employee Responsibilities When Requesting Reasonable Accommodations:

  • Make the employer aware of the disability and explain the need for accommodation.
    • The words “ADA” or “accommodation” do not have to be stated. Just make it clear that there is a medical condition at issue that requires some type of change/adjustment at work.
  • Provide information requested by the employer to confirm the disability and determine the necessary reasonable accommodation(s).

Employer Responsibilities When Asked to Make Reasonable Accomodations:

  • Upon receiving notice of a disabled employee’s need for an accommodation (either by request or when the need is obvious), an employer must begin an informal interactive process. During this process the focus should be to find out what the employee needs and identify an appropriate accommodation.
    • The employer can ask questions and request documentation to determine is an employee has a disability.  Likewise, additional information can be requested the employee’s limitations and/or needed accommodation(s).


  • Keep confidential the employee’s disability and need for reasonable accommodation.

What an Employer Does NOT Have to Do When Making Reasonable  Accommodations:

  • Eliminate essential job functions.


  • Excuse the violation of a conduct rule that applies to all employees.


  • Lower production standards that are applied uniformly to all employees (but may need to provide an accommodation to assist a disabled employee to meet the standards).


  • Bump another employee out of a position to give it to the employee with a disability.


  • Change the employee’s supervisor (but changing methods of supervision may be an accommodation).


  • Monitor medication.


  • Provide personal use items (glasses, hearing aids, wheelchair, etc.) or amenities that are not provided to employees without disabilities (ex. refrigerator).


  • Provide the employee’s chosen accommodation, if more than one effective accommodation exists.


  • Provide an accommodation that would be an “undue hardship.”
    • “Undue hardship” usually involves significant difficulty and/or expense to provide, and would include reasonable accommodations that are unduly extensive, substantial, or disruptive, or those that would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business.
    • Each situation will be different – analyze on a case-by-case basis.

If You Need Assistance With Obtaining or Providing A Reasonable  Accommodation

(Individual or Business)

 Please Submit a Consultation Request 


This web site (including links, blogs or other content) is provided for informational purposes only and is not to be considered as legal advice.  Any interaction through this web site, including but not limited to any comments or the submission of a consultation request, does not create an expressed or implied attorney-client relationship. 

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