How Undue Hardship Protects Small Businesses

January 10, 2019

The Americans with Disabilities Act  of 1990 is one of the main sources of protection for employees who are being discriminated against because of their disability. On the other hand, the ADA also provides protection for employers against the hardships of having to accommodate their disabled employees.

How does the ADA Cover disability?

The ADA is a federal law that applies to employers who employee 15 or more employees. In terms of employment, the ADA provides protections for employees who are suffering from a disability. For an employee to receive protection under the ADA, the employee must:

  1. Be qualified for the job or able to perform the functions of the job
  2. Have a disability as defined by statute.

According to the ADA, someone has a disability if they meet the following criteria:

  1. He/she has a physical or mental condition that substantially limits a major life activity such as talking, walking, hearing, seeing, learning or vital bodily functions such as the cardiovascular system, immune system and normal cell growth.
  2. He/she has a history of mental or physical conditions or impairments such as cancer
  3. He/she has a mental or physical condition that is not transitory or minor.

The ADA applies to nearly every aspect of the employment process including, hiring, firing, promotions, demotions and compensation decisions.

What is an Employer’s Role in the ADA?

The ADA provides that an employer is prohibited from discriminating against an employee because of their disability. In fact, the employer is required to make a reasonable effort to accommodate a disabled employee  so as to make it possible for them to fulfill their duties.

Providing a reasonable accommodation can include making the office wheelchair accessible or providing a specific chair for an employee with back problems. On the other hand, a reasonable accommodation can include allowing a certain employee extra leave days as compared to other workers.

If an employee is unable to perform certain work functions because of their disabilities the employer may be required to reassign them to a different position that the employee is capable of performing. This means that a reasonable accommodation can include transferring an employee to a less strenuous position.

When is a Reasonable Accommodation, No Longer Reasonable?

Since the ADA applies to smaller businesses, the drafters anticipated the difficulties in implementing accommodation measures for small business owners. Employers are given certain exceptions where they are allowed to terminate disabled employees.  An employer is not required to provide a reasonable accommodation is when doing so would cause the business undue hardship. An accommodation is deemed to cause undue hardship when it causes the employer significant difficulty or expense.

What Is Undue Hardship?

Undue hardship is generally defined as an action that places significant challenge and expense on an employer. As such, an accommodation becomes an undue hardship to the business when the cost and practical implications of accommodating a disabled worker are too difficult to implement. This is generally measured on a case by case basis. However, there are several factors that are considered when determining whether an accommodation is reasonable or not. The considerations include the cost and nature of request for accommodation, practicability and health and safety requirements. If the costs of making a accommodation is too expensive or too impractical then the employer may be able to avoid doing so.

Alcoholism and Drug Abuse

If an employee is a recovering drug addict, they are also provided some protections by the ADA. Nonetheless, the ADA does not provide protections for alcoholics or those employees who are currently using drugs.

Contact a Experienced Attorney

If an employee or employer needs assistance in understanding the parameters of disability discrimination and reasonable accommodations, the should contact an attorney who has experience with the ADA and employment law. The experienced attorneys at Shegerian Conniff are ready to hold your employer accountable, fight for your legal rights, and seek justice.  Click here to contact us today or call us at 310-322-7500 for a free consultation.