Let’s say you work in a job that regularly requires you lift heavy objects and move them around. One day, you injury your back when lifting one of these heavy objects. You go to the doctor and the doctor diagnosis you with a sprained and instructs you not to lift anything over 10 pounds for the next month? What is an employee supposed to do when their job requires some sort of physical activity that their doctor has instructed them not to do?
This is all too regular a scenario in the workplace. Luckily, both federal and many state laws provide protections for employee who come across issues similar to this in the workplace. An employee should not have to lose their job or income due to an injury. One way the law address this issue is that of the reasonable accommodation.
What Is A Reasonable Accommodation?
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “A reasonable accommodation is any change in the workplace or the way things are customarily done that provides an equal employment opportunity to an individual with a disability. While there are some things that are not considered reasonable accommodations (e.g., removal of an essential job function or personal use items such as a hearing aid that is needed on and off the job), reasonable accommodations can cover most things that enable an individual to apply for a job, perform a job, or have equal access to the workplace and employee benefits such as kitchens, parking lots, and office events.”
Some common types of accommodations that are listed by the EEOC include, “modifying work schedules or supervisory methods, granting breaks or providing leave, altering how or when job duties are performed or removing and/or substituting C marginal function.”
How Do Requests for Reasonable Accommodations Work?
Generally, when an employee requests an accommodation, by law, the employer must make a reasonable effort to accommodate them. The employer must assist the employee with whatever is specified in the request or with a similar accommodation. In some situations, the employee can deny the requested accommodation. For example, if the request by the employee is a request that would cause the employer undue hardship then the employee may deny it. Undue hardship means that the requests would jeopardize the employee’s business or its dealings. According to the EEOC, Undue Hardship is defined as, “ Undue hardship means that the accommodation would be too difficult or too expensive to provide, in light of the employer’s size, financial resources, and the needs of the business. An employer may not refuse to provide an accommodation just because it involves some cost. An employer does not have to provide the exact accommodation the employee or job applicant wants. If more than one accommodation works, the employer may choose which one to provide.”
What To Do When an Employer Denies or Ignores a Request?
The are several steps an employee should take if they feel as though their reasonable request for an accommodation is being denied.
The employee should first put their request in writing. It is always important to have a paper trial for any requests you make of your employer. When a paper trial is created, it prevents the employer from making false claims that the employee never made the request. The employee should look to make their requests for a reasonable accommodation with both their immediate supervisor as well as with the human resources department if available.
If the employer continues to deny the employees request, the employee should look to file an administrative claim with the EEOC. The EEOC will conduct a full investigation and determine whether or not the request is reasonable and whether or not the employers refusal is wrongful. If the EEOC feels that the employee’s request is reasonable, they may issue the employee with a right to sue notice.
Once you have been given a Right to Sue Notice from the EEOC, you can proceed with filing a lawsuit in the proper jurisdiction. At this point, it is recommended that you find an attorney who is experienced with labor law to assist you.
If an employee feels that they are being denied a reasonable accommodation by their employer then they should consult with an attorney who is experienced in labor law immediately. There are strict regulations governing the process for filing a lawsuit. Furthermore, there are strict time restrictions, known as statute of limitations, as to when a lawsuit can be filed. 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.