Many of our clients are confronted with work restrictions where they want to work and do their job, but there are physical or even mental health disabilities which impede their overall productivity. From the employer’s view, they want to insure that the employee can still do the job and are often unjustly concerned about perceived increased costs and safety. This scenario calls into play the reasonable accommodation provisions in disability law where a balanced approach is undertaken to allow the employee to work. Under the accommodation provisions, the employee may be allowed to modify the job to some extent so long as they still do the essential functions of the job. This accommodation however must be reasonable, with that standard usually controlled by costs to the employer (undue burden) and a determination whether the essential functions of the job are still occurring.
The reaches of this portion of the law are extensive. For example:
- an employee in a manufacturing job with disc herniations may be entitled to use a hoist to get parts to their work table; or
- an employee may be able to get extra time off for chemotherapy or doctor appointments for a disease; or
- an employee may be able to get extra bathroom time if they have Chron’s disease.
The key is to make a calculated, thoughtful accommodation request that is not overreaching, and preferably to make this request in writing and use the term “accommodation.”
Many employers recognize these provisions and their overall goal, and welcome the idea of keeping employees productive. Some employers resist, even with long term employees, as seen in the Sicklesmith case elsewhere in the website. (See entire court opinion at: http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/rod/docs/pdf/7/2006/2006-Ohio-6137.pdf)