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Reasonable accommodations: What workers must know

What comes to mind when workers hear the term “discrimination”? Usually, workers think of verbal or physical harassment based on their race, sexual orientation or disability.

Harassment can certainly be a factor in cases of discrimination. However, the primary factor is any form of unfair treatment in the workplace. For example, if an employer refuses to provide reasonable accommodations to workers with disabilities, that is a form of discrimination.

Employees have a right to reasonable accommodations

It is illegal to discriminate against anyone based on a disability under both New Jersey and Federal laws. This means that employers cannot consider someone’s disability when making any employment decisions, such as:

  • Who to hire or terminate;
  • Which employees get promoted; and
  • Who receives pay raises.

However, employees with disabilities also have the right to accommodations. Essentially, the law requires employers to adjust the workplace to meet the worker’s needs – as long as it is reasonable. This often looks like:

  • Changing company policies to allow a service dog on the premises;
  • Adding more accessible parking spots in the parking lot; or
  • Adjusting a worker’s schedule to allow more rest periods.

If employers refuse to accommodate workers, it is discrimination.

How can you obtain accommodations?

Workers must submit a request for accommodations in order to obtain them. Different employers often have different procedures, but employees should always make their requests in writing. This ensures they have evidence in case their employer denies their request.

If the request is reasonable – which most are – and does not create an undue hardship for the employer, then employers have no basis to deny it. Workers can take legal action if they face denial and should consult an experienced employment law attorney to protect their rights.

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