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Is it legal for employers to deny accommodation requests?

On Behalf of | Jul 4, 2024 | Employment Law

Some people have medical challenges that limit their career options. They may have acquired illnesses or congenital medical conditions. Regardless of the nature of someone’s medical challenges, they may require certain forms of support to do their job safely and efficiently.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), businesses typically have an obligation to provide workers with reasonable accommodations. Unfortunately, many workers seeking support from the businesses that employ them receive pushback or never get the support that they require. In some cases, they may end up losing their job or other economic opportunities due to the refusal to provide reasonable accommodations.

Can companies ever justify a refusal to support a worker with a disabling medical condition?

Smaller companies are not subject to the ADA

While the ADA is a very valuable legal protection for many employees, does not universally apply to all businesses. Typically, companies need to have at least 15 employees for ADA provisions to apply. Those working for particularly small businesses or seeking employment at small companies may not be eligible for accommodations unless the company offers them voluntarily.

Not all accommodations are reasonable

Businesses can also potentially justify the refusal to provide accommodations in scenarios where a worker’s support needs are prohibitively difficult to meet. Companies can refuse accommodation requests by citing undue hardship exceptions. Massive expenses or protracted operational interruptions may constitute undue hardships that businesses do not need to absorb to remain compliant with federal disability statutes.

Workers may not technically qualify for accommodations

In some cases, workers ask for accommodations but do not have appropriate medical documentation. Typically, workers need notes from a physician if they want to ask an employer for on-the-job accommodations. If a worker does not have a disabling medical condition or if the accommodations they request don’t relate to a physician’s recommendations, the company that they work for could potentially deny their request without consequence.

In most cases, workers with documented conditions in need of reasonable accommodations can take legal action when companies refuse to provide those accommodations. Refusing accommodation requests is a common form of disability discrimination. Workers with medical conditions shouldn’t face mistreatment simply because they require support to perform a job well.