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What Constitutes an Undue Hardship for an Employer Under the ADA?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers must provide reasonable workplace accommodations to employees with disabilities to facilitate their employment or face serious consequences.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission explains that employers are not required to provide a reasonable accommodation if it would cause an undue hardship. The standard for proving undue hardship is fairly high and is determined by the totality of the employer’s circumstances. To be considered an undue hardship, the reasonable accommodation would need to cause significant difficulty or expense. Some factors used in this case-by-case determination include:

  • The nature and cost of the accommodation, as well as the financial resources of the employer:
    • The act looks at the net cost and encourages employers to exhaust all sources of funding to provide the accommodation. Employers can pursue government funds and tax exemptions to offset the cost of the accommodation.
    • A cost-benefit analysis is not authorized by the act and is therefore an inappropriate method of determining whether a request would cause an undue hardship to the employer.
  • Number of employees and the size of the facility making the accommodation.
  • The type of business, including the structure and functions of the workforce and geographic characteristics.
  • The impact of the accommodation on the operation of the facility:
    • An employer cannot claim that, because of fears or prejudices toward an individual with disabilities, the accommodation is an undue hardship.
    • A minor decrease in morale of other employees is similarly inadequate for proving an undue hardship.
    • If a modification to the work hours of an individual with disabilities would prevent other employees from doing their jobs, it is an undue hardship and the employer does not need to accommodate the request.

Further, an employer cannot claim a reasonable accommodation requested by a person with a disability would be an undue burden simply because it would require changes to property owned by someone else. For example, an employer in a rental property must make good faith efforts to investigate the terms of the lease and negotiate alterations with the property owner.

For more information regarding ADA compliance, contact an experienced labor and employment law attorney serving Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia businesses.

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