Under both the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, disabled employees may request a reasonable accommodation to ensure they perform their work duties and enjoy equal employment opportunities. While the ADAAA applies to all workplaces, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 specifically protects federal government workers.
However, an employer does not have to accommodate a disabled employee if the reasonable accommodation would impose an “undue hardship” on business operations. Undue hardship means any action or change that requires substantial cost or expense in which an employer cannot fulfill.
Determining what is an undue hardship under the ADDA and Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is based on the following factors:
The cost and nature of the accommodation – Employers may evaluate the expenses associated with the reasonable accommodation and the type of change requested. For example, if a piece of equipment like an office chair or desk is being requested as an accommodation for an employee’s disability, the employer may check if there is enough budget for the accommodation or if the employee’s current chair or desk satisfies the employee’s needs. Another example is if an employee requests a new set of work hours or flexibility, the employer will determine if the flexed time can be covered by another worker or if business tasks will still be met.
The financial resources of the facility – Employers must also assess its resources to fulfill the accommodation. When it comes to federal employees, the budget of an agency or department would be considered, rather than the operating budget of a specific office, unit, or region. If the resources of a single federal facility on its own would amount to undue hardship, then an office should consult with their Resource Official (SRO) to determine the availability of additional resources.
How the accommodation will impact business operations – Employers must review how the accommodation will affect how other employees perform their work duties or the operations of the agency or company as a whole. For instance, if restructuring an employee’s schedule as an accommodation leads to other workers experiencing heavier workloads and an overall disruption in operations, then such accommodation is considered an undue hardship.
If an employer determines that one specific reasonable accommodation will result in an undue hardship, but the second type of reasonable accommodation will not cause such hardship, then the employer must provide the latter. Undue hardship is determined on a case-by-case basis.
If your federal agency or office has denied you of your rightful reasonable accommodation, contact Pines Federal today at (800) 801-0598 to discuss your case. Our firm has more than 50 years of combined legal experience!