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Requesting an Accommodation at Work when You Have a Disability

April 18, 2020

Teamwork makes the dream work as they say. If you're working and are disabled or become disabled, you should approach your employer about having reasonable accommodations in place for you, as federal agencies are required to do. Employer accommodations will make your job, or should at least, easier for you to perform your duties. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to provide employees who need accommodations the same benefits and equalities, as an employee who does not need an accommodation. Accommodations encompass a variety of implementations via technology based, schedule changes, an adjustment to the job function(s) or other options the employer may have for you. In my own experience, I've seen accommodations for those with visual impairments, for others standing desks were provided, and special earplugs for environmental noise reduction.

Deciding on how to approach an employer may generate some apprehension in some, and it really shouldn't. An easy way to approach this may be just approaching your supervisor, manager, the Human Resources Department or the person in charge and saying, “Hey, I need to talk to you about a difficulty I'm having with my job,” or something to that effect. Make sure you feel comfortable with whomever you speak to, it is confidential information. This information once recorded should be kept locked in your file and away from other employees. Human Resources should move forward with providing the appropriate accommodation with the involvement of your manager or supervisor.

Some will advise that you put your request in writing. This may or may not always be necessary. It will be necessary to follow your company's protocol. For example, in employment settings I've had in the past, including the government, the lead or manager was approached by the employee needing an accommodation and instructions were given as to how to go about gaining the accommodation.

In my past experience, it was a doctor's letter stating the needs of the employee and this narrative was given to Human Resources to implement changes. There was no retaliation or “trading down” an employee for asking. Open communication was always respected, and your best advice. The accommodation was put into action and everything continued as normal.

Some employers actually have their own paperwork, which I've seen this as well, and may require you to have your medical provider submit their remarks on the company's forms.

There is a caveat to this, as employers may not provide the exact accommodation, they will provide another as long as it affords you the ability to successfully perform your job.

There isn't a specific time frame when deciding to speak with an employer to discuss an adjustment in your work environment. However, that being said, it would be to your benefit to disclose a change needed as soon as you realize your disability is interfering with your productivity. It is simply a necessity for you to do your job properly. Always read your employee handbook, and when in doubt contact your Human Resources Department with any questions you may have.

This blog is intended for information purposes only and does not establish legal representation or financial guidance.