For workers with disabilities or for workers who are pregnant, it’s sometimes imperative to have helpful assistance on the job. In fact, pregnant and disabled workers generally have the right to request on-the-job accommodations, which could range from extra break time to a change in work schedule.
However, some workers don’t get the fairness they deserve when it’s time to exercise their right to request accommodations. Employers may attempt to deny or ignore request or could even terminate employees rather than provide accommodations. These types of violations can be remedied by turning to well-known employment discrimination laws.
Your Right to Request Accommodations at the Federal and State Level
As a pregnant or disabled worker, you may be in need of helpful accommodation to do your regular course of work. These needs should not prevent you from maintaining your position or maintaining employment.
In fact, federal and state law has declared that workers with disabilities and those who are expecting should have a right to request the accommodations they need without being discriminated against.
The federal law that governs such rights is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The reasonable accommodation rights in this law are also supported in the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).
These federal laws contain the protections that most workers currently enjoy, such as freedom from sexual harassment and other types of discrimination including sex, national origin and religious discrimination. Without these protections, employers could be allowed to make important decisions based on personal bias or cultural and social stigmas and stereotypes.
At the state level, workers also have the right to request accommodations. State laws concerning discrimination often cover more workers than the federal laws. For example, coverage of state discrimination laws in California extends to companies with 5 or more workers, whereas federal laws only cover companies with 15 or more workers.
At both the state and federal level, courts are likely to pay close attention to the employer’s response to a request for accommodations in order to determine whether violations have occurred.
Your Employer’s Response to a Request for Accommodations
According to the EEOC, a request for accommodations must be reasonable and must not cause “undue hardship” to the business. This means that, by law, not all requests for accommodations can be honored. Only those requests that fall within the spectrum of reasonableness can be protected by federal and state law.
In the EEOC enforcement guidance document regarding requests for accommodations under the Americans With Disabilities Act, employees must be careful to request changes or improvements that will not create unreasonable hindrances to business and enterprise. This means unreasonable requests could legally be denied.
However, an employer is not free to ignore requests due to this limitation. Employers must give each request proper consideration and a suitable response according to the law. Additionally, the response must follow certain guidelines which all employers must abide by.
The EEOC’s enforcement guidance points out that “generalized conclusions” about the accommodations requested may not be enough to prove undue hardship. This means that an employer is not legally allowed to dismiss a request based on incomplete knowledge, and definitely not based on “prejudices or fears towards the individual’s disability.”
Rather, an employer must take several factors into consideration before making a decision to honor an accommodation request. This includes considering cost and funds available to the organization overall. Also, the employer need not stop short of providing an accommodation simply because one accommodation will cause an undue hardship. If an alternative option is available, the employer is obligated by law to provide the alternative.
Types of Acceptable Requests for Accommodation
When requesting accommodations, it’s safe to go with requests that are reasonable and have been recognized as reasonable by the EEOC. These include several types of accommodation that are well-known due to prior litigation or recognition by the agency at the state and federal level.
In its enforcement guidance, the EEOC lists several types of acceptable accommodations. The list is not exhaustive, but it does give employees and employers alike a relatively concrete perspective on the types of accommodations requests which have the best chance of being acceptable according to law. These include reassignment, modified workplace and modified schedules.
Other accommodation requests could be granted based on the nature of the employee’s condition or disability and the potential effects on the employer’s business and enterprise.
Taking Steps to Protect Your Rights
The best way to protect your right to request accommodations is to do so with the help and counsel of an employment rights attorney. An experienced employment rights attorney can give helpful advice about the legal technicalities involved in submitting a request as well as the legal implications of a dismissal or denial of the request.
It’s also important to be aware of company policies regarding submitting a request for accommodations if your are pregnant or disabled. Each company varies in the procedures required for submitting such requests. It may be helpful to inquire with your HR department about the exact process for submission and any other details that could effect a positive outcome.
You Have a Right to Request Accommodations if Pregnant or Disabled
Always remember, employment discrimination law works to protect employees whose condition could invoke discrimination, bias, prejudice, stereotypes and other unfair factors in employment decision-making.
When you experience these types of injustices while on the job, especially with requests for reasonable accommodation in the workplace, be sure to reach out to an experienced employment rights attorney for the best advice. An attorney’s guidance can make the difference between getting the accommodations you need and having your career negatively affected due to unfair violations of the law.