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Reasonable accommodations include more than an accessible workspace

While it is common knowledge that any workplace needs to treat employees fairly, the discussion of what “fair” means leads to debate. What is clearly defined, is that employees cannot be discriminated against based on their gender, race, country of origin, gender or disability.

Another word that many people disagree upon is disability. Anyone who has sought assistance for a medical condition knows the challenge of securing medical proof of a condition. For some people, seeing is believing. When a disability is not visually apparent, employers might be hesitant to comply with an employee’s needs.

Accommodations depend on the condition

With the Americans With Disabilities Act, fair means that everyone deserves equal rights and opportunities in the workplace environment. In a work setting, this means providing necessary equipment, access and other resources for a disabled individual to perform his or her job duties. For somebody with a chronic back condition, it may mean supplying a standing desk or specific ergonomic gear. For a blind employee, it could mean special software for the visually-impaired. Each disability has its own particular needs.

New York employers, of course, also want to limit their expenses. The law considers this with the term “reasonable accommodations,” meaning that there may be an exception if a company can prove that a request creates undue hardship on business operations. The employer may deny a request where it cause an undue hardship, it still must engage in the interactive process with the employee and determine if there is another way to accommodate the employee. This is in reference to the ADA. Application of the law also depends on the size of the company.

Medical treatment may be a necessary accommodation

There is much more to living with a disability than physical limitations, though. Medical assistance is often necessary, which could mean additional time away from work. In a recent example, national tool company Black & Decker settled with a former employee who was terminated for violating the company’s attendance policy, despite having a qualifying medical condition that required frequent treatments and time off. It cost the company a $140,000 settlement, plus legal fees and the administrative costs of updating their internal policies.

It is in everybody’s best interests to comply with the ADA. When a company fails to do so, it suffers damage to both its reputation and the bottom line. For the employee, the additional stress can have a ripple effect on other parts of his or her life, affecting overall health, family relationships and more. Anyone with questions about ADA compliance should consult with an experienced attorney for guidance to avoid future problems.

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