Co-written by Cherie L. Maxwell
Almost nine years after its enactment, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (the "ADA") remains an ongoing concern for employers. To address issues confronting employers, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") recently issued an extensive "Enforcement Guidance," which explains when and under what circumstances employers must reasonably accommodate an employee's disability.
Although noting that an employer may provide more than what the law requires, the Guidance examines what "reasonable accommodation" means and who is entitled to receive it. The Guidance also addresses requests for accommodation, an employer's ability to ask questions and seek documentation in response to a request for accommodation, the types of reasonable accommodation which are appropriate in the hiring process and to the performance of a particular job, and the relationship between the ADA and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. Finally, the Guidance addresses undue hardship and the circumstances under which accommodation requests may be denied.
This article summarizes the EEOC's position on these issues as set forth in the Enforcement Guidance and an employer's legal obligations regarding reasonable accommodation under the ADA.
Basic Obligations Of Employer
Generally, the ADA requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals with disabilities who are employees or applicants, unless doing so would cause undue hardship. The Guidance separates accommodations into three categories: 1) modifications to a job application process; 2) modifications to the work environment or to the circumstances under which the job is customarily performed; and 3) modifications that enable employees with disabilities to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment.
The Guidance identifies the following reasonable accommodations: making existing facilities accessible; job restructuring; modified work schedules; equipment modification; changes to tests, training materials or policies; providing readers or interpreters; and reassignment to a vacant position. Notably, the Guidance also identifies several modifications which are not considered forms of reasonable accommodation. For example, an employer does not have to: 1) eliminate an essential function of the job; 2) provide personal use items needed both on and off the job for daily activities, such as wheelchairs, eyeglasses...