What does Undue Hardship mean?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. To accomplish this goal the act necessitates that employers make employment accommodations which allow the disabled to perform a job if they have the skills necessary to perform "essential job functions" and it does not create an undue hardship for the employer. If the accommodation is significant, creates a significant expense, or significantly alters the business the employer does not have to make the accommodation.
How does the EEOC determine undue hardship?
To determine undue hardship the EEOC will review several factors: the net cost, the nature of the accommodation, the financial resources of the company, the number or employees, the overall financial resources of the business, the type of operation of the business, and the financial costs of the accommodation. In addition, the EEOC will review not only the factors listed above, but also whether the accommodation will "fundamentally" alter the business. The EEOC will give no weight to the argument that the accommodation is inconvenient for the employer.
Implementing reasonable accommodations
Business entities are encouraged to increase communication with their employers. Not all accommodations, even if requested by the employee, must be implemented. In fact, many accommodations can be decided by the employer as long as they allow the employee to perform the necessary functions of a job. Employers should also talk to disabled employees and not assume that every employee with the same disability needs the same type of accommodation.
As mentioned above, the key to avoiding confrontation and discrimination claims may be as simple as listening to the employee and trying several different types of accommodations until the best one is found. Remember, communication is the key to ensuring the process is cooperative not adversarial. Be creative and keep records of all attempts to accommodate disabled employees.
Filing a complaint
Complaints against an employer may be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) at 1 (800) 669-4000. Employees may have up to one year to file a complaint. In some cases the EEOC will investigate. In other cases they may allow you to file your own private lawsuit in state court.
If you win your case against your employer relief may include: compensatory damages for losses such as lost pay and pain and suffering, punitive damages (for intentional discriminatory actions), or modifications if you are reinstated to your job.
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