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What accommodations am I required to make?

When you posted the job vacancy, you likely had the perfect candidate in mind. Perhaps you did not envision a particular person, but you certainly hoped to find someone who was enthusiastic, hard-working and skilled for the position. There were several candidates who came close, and perhaps it was a difficult choice, but you filled the position and prepared to get to work training and acclimating your new hire.

Then he or she revealed a disability that required accommodations. Maybe you have dealt with this before, when an employee had cancer, struggled with depression or developed symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. You are always willing to accommodate your employees, but you feel that the exceptions your new hire requests are far from reasonable. How can you know?

Let's be reasonable

The Americans with Disabilities Act protects workers with disabilities by prohibiting employers from discriminating against them, whether in the hiring process, when giving promotions or throughout the work day. A well-qualified candidate has the same rights of consideration for a position despite having a chronic, permanent or long-term disabling condition. If the employee can do the job effectively with reasonable accommodations, you may not discriminate against him or her. Some typical accommodations may include:

  • Adapting the schedule to allow for medical appointments or therapy
  • Providing an interpreter
  • Allowing personal care attendants
  • Adjusting the physical space in the workplace
  • Changing procedure for marginal tasks

Before you hire someone, you obviously want to be sure he or she is qualified and able to do the major activities required by the job. Accommodating the incidentals should merely allow that worker to achieve the same outcome you expect of your other employees.

Resolving discrimination disputes

You may find that your new hire is willing to discuss options with you. However, you are not under any obligation to make accommodations that would create a hardship for your business. For example, you would likely consider it a hardship if your wheelchair-bound employee demanded that you install an elevator, but you may have no problem rearranging the office to allow space to navigate the wheelchair. You may even be able to provide ergonomically appropriate furniture.

If your employee feels you are refusing to make reasonable accommodations for his or her disability, you may find yourself facing a lawsuit. Discrimination lawsuits can cost your business money and damage the reputation you have worked hard to build. When facing such a situation, you would benefit from the advice and counsel of an Ohio attorney who is dedicated to helping businesses, whether through negotiations or litigation.

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