From the desk of Linda Carter Batiste, J.D., Director of Services and Publications
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers don’t always have to provide the specific accommodation requested by an employee with a disability; employers can choose to provide an alternative accommodation as long as it’s effective. To be effective, an accommodation must overcome the employee’s disability-related limitations so the employee can perform the job or have equal access to benefits of employment. Once an employer offers an effective accommodation option, the employer can end the interactive process.
One of the questions JAN frequently gets from employees with disabilities is what to do if an employer offers an alternative accommodation that the employer thinks is effective, but in fact is not effective. There isn’t a specific way that employees are required to handle this type of situation, but here are some things for employees to consider:
You need to inform your employer that the alternative accommodation isn’t effective. Otherwise, the employer has no duty to reopen the accommodation process or to reconsider your original request. You can inform your employer any way you want, but in our experience, it can be useful to do it in writing so you have a record.
Your employer needs to know why the alternative accommodation isn’t overcoming your limitations and enabling you to perform your job or access benefits of employment. This information will help the employer better understand the situation.
You can remind your employer what your original accommodation request was and why you requested it so the employer has all the necessary information easily available. You also can ask that your original accommodation be reconsidered (unless your employer already gave you a valid reason why it cannot be provided). You can explain how the accommodation you requested will be effective and enable you to perform your job or access benefits of employment.
If you think it would help to meet with your employer again, you can suggest that in your letter, and if you think additional medical information would help your employer understand the situation better, you can include that as well.
If leave is the alternative accommodation your employer offered, we have specific ideas about how to handle this situation as it has unique issues: Leave as an Ineffective Accommodation.
For additional information regarding the ADA and reasonable accommodation, contact the Job Accommodation Network.
Sample Letter Informing an Employer That an Accommodation is Not Effective
The following is an example of what can be included in a letter informing an employer that an accommodation is not effective. This is not intended to be legal advice.
Date of Letter
Dear (e.g., Supervisor, Manager, Human Resources, Personnel):
Content to consider in body of letter:
- Thank your employer for offering the alternative accommodation
- State that the alternative accommodation will not be effective
- Explain why the alternative accommodation will not be effective
- Remind the employer about your specific work-related problem that created the need for an accommodation
- Remind your employer about your accommodation ideas and ask that they be reconsidered unless they’ve been ruled out for valid reasons
- Offer to meet with your employer to discuss the situation further and to explore other ideas if needed
- Refer your employer to the medical documentation you already provided if appropriate or provide additional information if needed
Sincerely, Your signature
Your printed name
Cc: to appropriate individuals