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Handicap Businessman Sitting with Colleague in Office

What Accommodations Is My Employer Required to Provide? 

Lusby & Brooks, P.A Dec. 29, 2022

Both the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and North Carolina’s Persons with Disabilities Protection Act require employers to have programs and policies in place to prevent discrimination against disabled job applicants and employees or to provide “reasonable accommodations” for both groups.  

Perhaps the most obvious of reasonable accommodations can be seen in all the places of business that have installed ramps to make access easier for those who are wheelchair-bound or otherwise facing difficulties walking up and down stairs. Another almost universal accommodation is equipping bathrooms for those with physical disabilities to ease access and use.  

While these accommodations are broad-based, individual job applicants and employees may have other physical or mental challenges that make it difficult for them to carry out the application process or perform the duties of employment.   

What are the standards for these individual accommodations, and must employers always grant them? These are questions many in the job market have, and justifiably so.  

If you’re a job applicant or employee in or around Wilson, North Carolina, and you feel your potential or actual employer has denied you a reasonable accommodation, contact the constitutional/employment law attorneys at Lusby & Brooks, P.A. today for reliable legal assistance.  

We are well experienced in cases involving workplace discrimination and denial of rights and continue to fight for individuals’ rights and dignity all the way from the local level to the North Carolina Supreme Court and in federal courts as well.  

Lusby & Brooks, P.A. also proudly serves clients throughout North Carolina, including Wilmington, Fayetteville, Jacksonville, Raleigh, Charlotte, and Greensboro. 

What Is the Americans with Disabilities Act? 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. The ADA served as an extension of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited discrimination based on race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. The ADA enshrined the same prohibition and inherent protections for people with disabilities.  

Enforcement of the ADA falls largely under the authority of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which fields complaints, investigates, and can issue sanctions or even undertake lawsuits against employers who violate the ADA, including its provision regarding reasonable accommodations. 

Who Qualifies as Disabled Under the ADA? 

According to the ADA and the EEOC, the definition of a person with a disability is threefold. It is anyone who:  

  • has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities,  

  • has a history or record of such an impairment (such as cancer that is in remission), or  

  • is perceived by others as having such an impairment (such as a person who has scars from a severe burn).   

A major life activity includes many facets of daily living, including eating, breathing, reading, walking, talking, thinking and concentrating, standing, lifting, and more. It also includes major bodily functions such as circulation, reproduction, and individual organs.   

Substantially limited is a broad category and is not meant to become a demanding task of classification. However, hay fever and mild allergies are examples of what are not conditions considered to substantially limit a person.  

North Carolina’s statute virtually mirrors the ADA and its definitions. 

What Is a Reasonable Accommodation? 

In addition to ramps and more accessible restrooms, which are more akin to universal accommodations, an employee may request a reasonable accommodation to better handle the duties of their employment or even to attend a job interview. The employer is expected to engage in an interactive dialogue with the employee or applicant to determine what reasonable accommodation should be.  

Examples of reasonable accommodations include but are not limited to:  

  • Modifying the employee’s workstation by, for instance, lowering the height of the desk or making more room available for moving about. 

  • Restructuring the job, for instance to a 10-hour, four-day workweek so the employee can attend physical or other therapy sessions or see a doctor or specialist. 

  • Making computer software more accessible through screen reader software. 

  • Providing sign language interpreters or closed captions at meetings and other events.  

  • Modifying policies to allow a service animal to be with the employee. 

Can a Reasonable Accommodation Be Turned Down? 

An employer is obliged to enter into an interactive dialogue over the request for reasonable accommodation and should make every effort to find an affordable and doable solution. The ADA allows an employer to turn down a reasonable accommodation only if it represents an “undue hardship.”   

This usually refers to the amount of money needed or the disrupting effects the accommodation may have on the operations of the business as a whole. But the EEOC will counter that most accommodations cost less than $500 and that most employers can afford that. 

Can an Employer Require a Medical Examination for Disabled Persons’ Employment? 

An employer cannot require a job applicant to take a medical exam prior to being offered a job, but the employer can do so once a job offer has been tendered – but only if all applicants and employees in that job position are required to take a medical exam.   

Legal Support You Can Trust 

If you feel you have been discriminated against because of a disability, perceived or real, by an employer anywhere in North Carolina, contact us at Lusby & Brooks, P.A., today for help. We will deal with your situation with the utmost compassion and understanding. We are dedicated to protecting the rights of the hard-working citizens of North Carolina, and we will help you seek the best possible resolution to your situation. You deserve complete protection under the laws of the United States and North Carolina.