Living with Chronic Pain

What Is Considered an Unreasonable Accommodation in the Workplace?


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures that employers with 15 or more employees must provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations allow an employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of a job. Examples of reasonable accommodations include providing assistive devices or equipment, adjusting schedules, or restructuring job descriptions.

What is an unreasonable accommodation?

An unreasonable accommodation would cause an “undue hardship” to the employer. An undue hardship involves an accommodation that would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer to implement.

An undue hardship for one employer may not be an undue hardship for another employer. For example, a large company with ample resources and employees may be able to provide an extensive or expensive accommodation that would cause undue hardship on a small company.

Examples of accommodations that may be deemed unreasonable include the following:

  • Eliminating a primary job responsibility
  • Lowering production standards applied to other employees
  • Providing more paid leave to an employee with a disability than provided to other employees
  • Changing an employee’s supervisor
  • Granting leave without a fixed return date if the employer cannot guarantee the employee’s return or fill the position
  • Reducing an employee’s hours if doing so would disrupt the employer’s ability to continue business operations

What options are available if a requested accommodation is deemed unreasonable?

If a requested accommodation is deemed unreasonable, the employer must work with the employee to create a reasonable accommodation. If undue hardship on the employer is based on the cost of implementing an accommodation, the employee should be given the option to contribute to the cost of the accommodation. Employers may also seek funding for the accommodation from an outside resource, such as a state rehabilitation agency. Tax deductions or credits are also available to help cover accommodation costs.

The bottom line

An individual with a disability and their employer should work together to implement accommodations that are acceptable to both the employee and the employer.

For more information regarding employers and reasonable accommodations, visit the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Additional sources used for the creation of this article include the ADA National Network and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

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