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Can employers deny a reasonable accommodation request?

On Behalf of | Jul 12, 2023 | Employment Law

Growing businesses thrive when they have efficient and happy employees. Employees work best when they are under the right conditions and believe the company cares for them. One of the ways businesses can help their employees perform is by providing reasonable accommodation to those who require it.

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) states that businesses with at least five employees must provide individuals with disabilities with reasonable accommodations. Unless it would cause undue hardship for the employer, qualified employees may request reasonable accommodation from their employers to perform their essential job functions.

When is a request unreasonable?

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, undue hardship is something that would cause significant difficulty or expense to the employer if they provide the accommodation.

Undue hardship is not limited to requests that are too expensive. It also applies to changes that will take an unreasonable amount of effort and time or that might disrupt business operations.

However, proving undue hardship can be difficult. It involves looking at the company’s financial resources, the impact of the accommodation on business operations, and the nature and cost of the accommodation.

If, after evaluating the request, the employer determines it will cause undue hardship, the employer may deny the requested accommodation. However, they must discuss the reason and relay other possible options to the employee. These alternatives must be reasonable and effective enough to meet the employee’s requirements.

All companies, no matter how big or small, need to be aware of and comply with reasonable accommodation laws. Establishing a procedure and obtaining legal counsel may also help in understanding the nuances of reasonable accommodation requirements and reducing the possibility of a lawsuit.