If you have more than 15 employees, you’re required to accommodate a disabled employee. If you’re in California, that obligation starts at five employees. Just what is an accommodation? According to the EEOC, FEHC, and Job Accommodation Network, possible job accommodations include:
- Modifying facilities
- Job restructuring
- Part time or modified work schedules (creating a full time modified job is not required)
- Reassignment to a vacant position (persons with accommodations get first dibs on those opportunities)
- Acquisition or modification of equipment
- Adjustment or modification of examinations, training materials, or policies
- Provision of qualified readers or interpreters
- Extended leaves of absence
- Preference of disabled persons over non-disabled persons in reassignment
- Any other accommodation idea that you or an employee or accommodation specialist can think of
Remember that obligation is mitigated by the “undue hardship” standard, under which an employer need not create an accommodation if it would be overly burdensome due to costs, overall financial resources, size of the employer, type of operations, and geographic considerations. Ultimately, the accommodated employee must to be able to do the job they were hired for. An employer is usually better off allowing an employee to try the suggested accommodation as long as there are no ancillary security or safety concerns. Employers have the incentive to find job accommodations when there are Workers Compensation-related injuries to avoid adding costs to the Work Comp system.
To prevail in a disability accommodation case, an employee must show that they could have done the job with or without an accommodation. Also, the courts have stated that employers have access to information that employees do not and have an affirmative duty to investigate possible accommodation scenarios. Finally, there’s an incredible wealth of accommodation resources on the Job Accommodation Network Web site.