By John V. Berry, Esq., www.berrylegal.com
We are often asked about reasonable accommodations by employees in Virginia when they develop a medical condition that requires a change in
their duties or other adjustments. We advise private, federal, state and county sector employees in Virginia this regard. The reasonable accommodation process applies to both employees and job applicants in all states including the Commonwealth of Virginia.
What is a Reasonable Accommodation?
The usual first question that comes up is what is a reasonable accommodation? A reasonable accommodation is an employee’s request to modify their employment conditions, assignments, hours, etc. in order to allow them to continue working in a position despite a disability. Most employees are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which covers reasonable accommodations. Federal employees are covered under the Rehabilitation Act which is very similar to the ADA. According to these laws, employers are required to engage in the reasonable accommodation process to qualified employees unless it would create an undue hardship for them. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and other civil rights governmental entities enforce reasonable accommodation matters.
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, employees are also covered under the Virginians with Disabilities Act which applies to all employers. Under both the federal and state laws, the goal of the reasonable accommodation process is to enable a qualified employee with a disability the opportunity to enjoy an equal opportunity in employment.
How Does an Individual Request a Reasonable Accommodation?
A request for reasonable accommodation can be formal or informal. Some employers have created specific forms covering reasonable accommodation requests and others simply involve verbal discussions between the employee and their immediate supervisor. The most typical reasonable accommodation involves an employee that has developed a medical condition or disability that requires some modifications or adjustments to their working arrangements. Usually, an employee will ask for a reasonable accommodation by approaching their supervisor or Human Resources department, depending on the employer and asking for one. Once requested, there is usually a discussion about the reasonable accommodation requested.
The Interactive Process
The reasonable accommodation discussion between an employer and employee is often called the “interactive process” which simply means that the employer must engage the employee in attempting to resolve the reasonable accommodation request. The interactive process does not mean that an employer has to grant every accommodation sought, or even the specific one requested. The employer is required to give a reasonable effort at resolving the reasonable accommodation at issue.
Examples of Reasonable Accommodations
The following are some examples of reasonable accommodation requests. There are far too many to list, but the following are examples.
Example A: An employee develops carpal tunnel syndrome and needs a new keyboard because their current keyboard is aggravating their condition. A request for a new keyboard is a request for a reasonable accommodation.
Example B: An employee is undergoing medical treatment in the morning for epilepsy. He informs his supervisor that he needs an adjustment in his starting time so that he can take his medication in the morning before starting work. This is a request for a reasonable accommodation.
Example C: An employee develops a heart condition and needs to take daily breaks at a certain time in order to take their medication. A request to take breaks in order to take medication is a reasonable accommodation.
Example D: An employee develops a disability that causes them to be unable to perform the duties of their position. An employee’s request for reassignment is a request for reasonable accommodation.
There are far too many examples of reasonable accommodations to list here, as they vary based on an employee’s specific medical condition and needs. Additional examples of reasonable accommodations for specific conditions can be found here.
When a Virginia employee is in need of a reasonable accommodation, it is important to obtain legal advice and legal representation. Our law firm stands ready to advise and represent Commonwealth of Virginia employees in the reasonable accommodation process. We can be contacted at www.berrylegal.com or by telephone at (703) 668-0070. We can also be seen on Facebook at Berry & Berry, PLLC Facebook Page.