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Navigating the Americans with Disabilities Act: What You Need to Know When Requesting Reasonable Accommodations

Dec 7, 2021 | Disability Law

By Matthew DeGioia, Esq.

Have you received a request from your Human Resources department to submit an Americans with Disability Act (ADA) Request for Reasonable Accommodations? Are you wondering how submitting an ADA Request will affect your disability claim?

Here are a few commonly asked questions from disability claimants regarding the ADA process:

What is an ADA Request for Reasonable Accommodations?

The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees to allow them to continue to perform the essential functions of their position. The only exception to this requirement is if providing the requested accommodation would cause undue hardship for the employer. The term “disability” under the ADA is broadly defined to include many medical conditions and impairments that “substantially limit one or more major life activities.” Your employer will likely require you and your treating medical provider to complete a form identifying your diagnosis, clinical findings, limitations, and the accommodations you are requesting to allow you to continue to perform the essential functions of your position.

What Happens when I file an ADA Request for Reasonable Accommodations?

Upon submitting an ADA request, you will be contacted by your ADA specialist or a representative from the Human Resources department to initiate what is called the “interactive process.” This process is facilitated between you, your supervisor, and Human Resources so that your employer can determine what your work limitations are and what modifications or adjustments to your work environment are necessary to allow you to continue to perform the essential functions of your position. Your specialist will then speak with your supervisor to determine if they can accommodate your request. Suppose your supervisor is not amenable to implementing your requested accommodations. In that case, they may propose alternative accommodations that would permit you to continue performing your position’s essential functions. You then will have the opportunity to accept or decline the accommodations that your employer offers you.

What Happens if I Decline the Accommodations Offered by my Employer?

If you decline the accommodations offered by your employer and there are no other reasonable accommodations that your employer can provide you with, the final accommodation that your employer can provide is reassignment. Under the ADA, an employer may reassign you to another position, provided that there is an existing vacancy that you are qualified to perform, given your limitations, and that does not represent an enhancement in employment, i.e., the reassignment cannot be of greater pay or status than your current position. A reassignment is different from a transfer in that your new placement will likely be a demotion from where you were previously employed.

What Happens if My Employer Cannot Reassign Me?

Suppose your employer cannot reassign you to another position. In that case, you are no longer protected under the ADA because you cannot perform the essential functions of your job with or without reasonable accommodations. Assuming your employer is unwilling to provide you with a leave option, your employer at this point has the right to separate you from employment.

How do ADA Requests for Reasonable Accommodation Interact with Disability Claims?

When you submit an ADA Request to your employer, you and your treating medical provider certify that you can perform the essential functions of your position, provided that your employer can provide you with the accommodations you requested. Further, if you accept a reasonable accommodation offered by your employer, you are then stating that you can perform the essential functions of your position with the accepted accommodations.

While reasonable accommodations can be revisited at any time, including if and when your medical condition worsens, it is important to note that once your request for reasonable accommodation is approved, it is difficult to then make the case in your disability claim that you are not able to perform the material duties of your position with or without reasonable accommodations. To maintain the credibility of your disability claim, you would likely need to attempt to work with the approved accommodations until you can no longer perform the essential functions of your position.

Ideally, your employer would not prompt you to file an ADA request while your disability claim is pending. However, in the event your employer requires you to submit an ADA Request, it is best to consult with an experienced disability attorney on how to navigate the interactive process in such a way that your disability claim remains viable. Feel free to give me a call at 301-563-6685 to schedule a free consultation regarding your disability claim.   

About Andalman & Flynn, P.C.: Founded in 1998 in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, Andalman & Flynn has forged a distinguished reputation for legal excellence. The firm represents individuals seeking disability benefits throughout the country and practices family law throughout Maryland and the District of Columbia. The firm focuses on cases that impact the rights of everyone, and are there for clients when responsive legal help is most critical. The firm has provided legal analysis on national and local television and radio, and their attorneys often testify before legislative bodies and are routinely invited to contribute to prominent legal publications. For more information about Andalman & Flynn, please visit the website at andalmanflynn.com or call 301.563.6685


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