The question of how far an employer must go to accommodate a disabled employee is at the very heart of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Answering that question starts with understanding the term "reasonable accommodations."
An accommodation is any change in the physical workplace, or in the methodology usually employed to perform a job, that allows a qualified individual with a disability to apply for and hold that particular job.
There are three categories of reasonable accommodations:
The term "reasonable" refers to the change being "feasible" or "plausible." The only exception to an employer's obligation to provide reasonable accommodation is if it would cause "undue hardship" to the employer. Undue hardship means that an employer would face great difficulty or expense to make the accommodation because they lack the resources or ability to provide the requested accommodation. Undue hardship also refers to reasonable accommodations that are so extensive, substantial, or disruptive, that they would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business.
Keep in mind that in spite of the undue hardship clause, there are still a number of reasonable accommodations that do change operations, on some level, that the employer is required to make. The majority of them have to do with job performance:
By the same token, if an employer restructures a job to eliminate some secondary functions, the employer can require the disabled employee to assume other secondary functions that they can perform.
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