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Determining Reasonable Accommodation & Undue Hardship - Part 1
August 9, 2006
How Does an Employer Determine What Is a Reasonable Accommodation?
When a qualified individual with a disability requests an accommodation, the employer must make a reasonable effort to provide an accommodation that is effective for the individual (gives the individual an equally effective opportunity to apply for a job, perform essential job functions, or enjoy equal benefits and privileges).
In many cases, an appropriate accommodation will be obvious and can be made without difficulty and at little or no cost. Frequently, the individual with a disability can suggest a simple change or adjustment, based on his or her life or work experience.
An employer should always consult the person with the disability as the first step in considering an accommodation. Often this person can suggest much simpler and less costly accommodations than the employer might have believed necessary.
For More Information on Reasonable Accommodation:
I Technical Assistance Manual, Chapter III - Reasonable Accommodation Obligation
ADA Document Portal
- ADA: Your Responsibilities
as an Employer
Accommodation Under the ADA
- Small Employers and
- Job Accommodation Network
Undue Hardship In Determining Reasonable Accommodations
An employer does not have to provide a reasonable accommodation that would cause an "undue hardship" to the employer. Generalized conclusions will not suffice to support a claim of undue hardship. Instead, undue hardship must be based on an individualized assessment of current circumstances that show that a specific reasonable accommodation would cause significant difficulty or expense.
A determination of undue hardship should be based on several factors, including:
- Nature and cost of the accommodation needed;
- Overall financial resources of the facility making the reasonable accommodation;
- Number of persons employed at this facility;
- Effect on expenses and resources of the facility;
- Overall financial resources, size, number of employees, and type and location of facilities of the employer (if the facility involved in the reasonable accommodation is part of a larger entity);
- Type of operation of the employer, including the structure and functions of the workforce, the geographic separateness, and the administrative or fiscal relationship of the facility involved in making the accommodation to the employer;
- Impact of the accommodation on the operation of the facility.
The ADA's legislative history indicates that Congress wanted employers to consider all possible sources of outside funding when assessing whether a particular accommodation would be too costly. Undue hardship is determined based on the net cost to the employer. Thus, an employer should determine whether funding is available from an outside source, such as a state rehabilitation agency, to pay for all or part of the accommodation. In addition, the employer should determine whether it is eligible for certain tax credits or deductions to offset the cost of the accommodation. Also, to the extent that a portion of the cost of an accommodation causes undue hardship, the employer should ask the individual with a disability if s/he will pay the difference.
If an employer determines that one particular reasonable accommodation will cause undue hardship, but a second type of reasonable accommodation will be effective and will not cause an undue hardship, then the employer must provide the second accommodation.
An employer cannot claim undue hardship based on employees' (or customers') fears or prejudices toward the individual's disability. Nor can undue hardship be based on the fact that provision of a reasonable accommodation might have a negative impact on the morale of other employees. Employers, however, may be able to show undue hardship where provision of a reasonable accommodation would be unduly disruptive to other employees' ability to work.
For More Information on Undue Hardship:
Enforcement Guidance: Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the
- Contact your regional ADA
& I T Technical Assistance
Phone: 1-800-949-4232 (v/tty)
The Southeast Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (DBTAC) is authorized by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) to provide information, materials, and technical assistance to individuals and entities that are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) under Grant #H133D010207. However, you should be aware that NIDRR is not responsible for enforcement of the ADA For more information or assistance, please contact the Southeast DBTAC via its web site at www.sedbtac.org or by calling 1-800-949-4232 (TTY/voice).