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The ADA does not interfere with an employer’s right to have workplace policies; employers are allowed to develop and enforce policies that apply to all employees, including employees with disabilities. However, it can be a reasonable accommodation to modify a workplace policy when needed because of an employee's disability-related limitations, absent undue hardship. Modifying a policy as an accommodation does not mean the employer must modify it for all employees; the employer can still apply the policy to all other employees.

The following are some examples of policies employers must consider modifying, absent undue hardship:

There are also policies that employers do not have to consider modifying. For example:

  • Prohibiting violence, threats of violence, stealing, or destruction of property
  • Prohibiting insubordination towards supervisors and managers
  • Requiring that employees show respect for, and deal appropriately with, clients and customers
  • Prohibiting inappropriate behavior between coworkers (e.g., employees may not yell, curse, shove, or make obscene gestures at each other at work)
  • Prohibiting employees from sending inappropriate or offensive e-mails (e.g., those containing profanity or messages that harass or threaten coworkers)
  • Prohibiting the use of the internet to access inappropriate websites (e.g., pornographic sites, sites exhibiting crude messages, etc.)
  • Prohibiting excessive use of the employer’s computers and other equipment for purposes unrelated to work
  • Requiring that employees observe safety and operational rules enacted to protect workers from dangers inherent in certain workplaces (e.g., factories with machinery with accessible moving parts)
  • Prohibiting the drinking of alcohol or illegal use of drugs in the workplace

However, keep in mind that if there is an accommodation that would enable an employee with a disability to comply with these policies, the employer must consider providing the accommodation, absent undue hardship. In addition, it might be a reasonable accommodation to develop a policy, for example a fragrance policy for an employee with fragrance sensitivity.