What is a reasonable accommodation?
A reasonable accommodation is any change in the work environment (or in the way things are typically done) to help a person with a disability apply for a job, perform the duties of a job, or enjoy the benefits of employment.
The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires an employer to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause significant expense or business hardship for the employer.
Accommodations are specific to each individual’s need and the type of job they have. For example, one employee with MS fatigue, who is an accountant, may be granted an accommodation to work from home, whereas for another person with MS fatigue who is a manager, working from home may not be “reasonable”.
Although you may request a particular accommodation, your employer can choose the type of reasonable accommodation that will be made available; however, the accommodation must be effective. For example, your employer may choose to provide you with a private office instead of allowing you to work from home to address distractibility issues.
How do I request reasonable accommodation?
There is no special process to request an accommodation. You do not have to use special words or the words "reasonable accommodation" when making your request, nor are you required to put your request in writing; however, it may be prudent to do so. If you have only a verbal agreement with your current supervisor and he or she leaves you may have to revisit the accommodation with a new supervisor who may or may not agree which can cause undue stress.
However you decide to approach your request, you need to inform your employer that you need an adjustment or change at work due to a disability. You should be prepared to provide enough information to show that you have a disability.
After the request is made, the employer may ask that you complete certain forms or provide certain medical information. You are not required to provide your entire medical or mental health history. You only need to provide information which is relevant to the accommodation requested.
If you are considering approaching your employer about obtaining a reasonable accommodation, the following resources may prove useful.
The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) the leading source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues, offer one-on-one guidance on workplace accommodations, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related legislation, and self-employment and entrepreneurship options for people with disabilities. Assistance is available both over the phone and online
They have extensive information and support on the accommodation process as well as a comprehensive list of reasonable accommodations that might be made for someone with MS to help them continue to do their job while managing their symptoms.
Employees' Practical Guide to Negotiating and Requesting Reasonable Accommodations Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
JAN Sample Request for Accommodation Letter
JAN Accommodation and Compliance Series
- Article - What are Reasonable Accommodations and How to Get Them (.pdf)
What if my employer refuses my request?
If your employer is refusing to grant you a reasonable accommodation yet you feel your request was reasonable you can contact the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. The EEOC enforces the employment provisions of the ADA and has attorneys you can speak to who will help you determine if you have a valid complaint.
Visit their website at EEOC or call 202/663-4900 or 1-800-669-4000 (to be connected to your nearest field office)
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Visit ada.gov for information and technical assistance on the ADA, or call their information line at (800) 514-0301.
ADA National Network
The ADA National Network 1-800-949-4232, provides information, guidance and training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), tailored to meet the needs of business, government and individuals at local, regional and national levels. The ADA National Network consists of ten Regional ADA National Network Centers located throughout the United States that provide local assistance to ensure that the ADA is implemented wherever possible.
Search for comprehensive ADA information, services, products, training and guidelines, or visit your Regional ADA National Network Center website for local events and support.