The CEO of a company in North Palm Beach, Florida asks: What is a "reasonable accommodation" and do I have to provide a reasonable accommodation?
What is an Employer's Obligations to Provide Reasonable Accommodations in Florida?
A reasonable accommodation is any change or adjustment to a job or work environment that permits a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the job application process, to perform the essential functions of a job, or to enjoy benefits and privileges of employment equal to those enjoyed by employees without disabilities. For example, reasonable accommodation may include:
Reasonable accommodation also must be made by a covered Florida employer to enable an individual with a disability to participate in the application process, and to enjoy benefits and privileges of employment equal to those available to other employees.
It is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to fail to provide reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of a qualified individual with a disability, unless to do so would impose an undue hardship on the operation of your covered Florida business. Undue hardship means that the accommodation would require significant difficulty or expense.
The two scenarios where the issue of a reasonable accommodation comes up is when an applicant or employee is requesting an accommodation because of a disability or because of their religion.
It is not uncommon for an employee to have a disability that effects his or her employment. For example, a person may have a back condition that would require them to stand up and work at certain times during the day versus sitting down all day. If this employee's condition is a "disability" that affects him or her working, the employee may make a request for a reasonable accommodation with his Florida-based employer. A reasonable accommodation is basically a slight modification or adjustment to the working conditions that enables the employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of his or her job. In the current example, the employee with the back condition may request a standing desk to work at during the work day to enable him to do his job. So long as the desk cost was reasonable, and not an undue hardship, the employer may be required to provide the accommodation.
Generally, covered Florida employers are required to provide a reasonable accommodation unless doing so would create an undue hardship on the employer. Undue hardship means that it would cause the employer significant difficult or expense. To determine this, various factors are considered including the cost of the accommodation as well as the employer’s resources. If you have an employee or applicant requesting an accommodation because of a disability and you are unsure of whether you have a legal obligation to accommodate that applicant/employee, please promptly contact our firm for a free consultation. It is much easier (and cheaper) to make sure that you are taking the proper action beforehand. Our law firm has experience defending ADA discrimination lawsuits brought in federal court (U.S. District Court for the Middle or Southern District of Florida).