REQUESTING AND NEGOTIATING REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS UNDER THE ADA
How do I know whether I have a disability under the ADA and whether I’m entitled to accommodations at work?
Under the ADA, you are entitled to accommodations if you meet the definition of disability, are qualified for the job, need an accommodation because of your disability, and work for an employer that has at least 15 employees. There is no list of medical conditions that meet the definition of disability, and each case is determined based on an individual’s specific limitations. If you think you might meet the definition of disability, you can ask your employer for the accommodation you need and see if they will provide it. Also, employers are free to provide accommodations even if someone doesn't meet the definition of disability. So, if you need an accommodation, in most cases the best thing to do is ask for it.
How do I disclose my disability to my employer?
The ADA does not have specific requirements for how to disclose a disability and the best approach may depend on why you are disclosing. JAN offers guidance for disclosing a disability for various reasons at each stage of employment. See: Disability Disclosure Topics.
How do I ask for an accommodation?
There is no official method or form to request an accommodation under the ADA, so you can do it any way you want as long as you let your employer know that you're asking for something because of a medical condition. However, it can be useful to make a written request because it gives you time to decide what you want to say and what you want to ask for without the pressure of a face-to-face meeting with your employer. It also establishes a record of your request.
What type of information can my employer request when I ask for an accommodation?
If it isn't obvious that you have a disability or need an accommodation, your employer can ask you to provide limited medical documentation to show that you're covered under the ADA and to help clarify why you need an accommodation. Your employer cannot ask for documentation that is unrelated to determining the existence of your disability and the necessity for an accommodation. This means that in most situations an employer cannot ask you about other medical conditions you might have or request your complete medical records. JAN offers ideas about what you might do if you think your employer is asking for too much medical information. See: Dealing with Improper Requests for Medical Documentation from an Employer.
Do I have to disclose my specific diagnosis when requesting accommodations? I would prefer that my employer not know my diagnosis.
Under the ADA, employers can probably ask you for your diagnosis as part of verifying that you have a disability. However, you can try starting out with more general information and see if your employer accepts it.
What can I do if I'm having trouble getting medical documentation to support my accommodation request?
Your first step might be to let your employer know that you are trying to get the documentation and why you're having trouble getting it. You can offer alternative documentation if you have it, such as copies of previous medical records you might have at home. Or you could ask your employer to provide temporary accommodations while you continue trying to get documentation.
What accommodations can I ask for?
There is no exhaustive list of what accommodations you can ask for under the ADA, but there are general categories that include:
- providing or modifying equipment or devices,
- job restructuring,
- part-time or modified work schedules,
- reassignment to a vacant position,
- adjusting or modifying examinations, training materials, or policies (e.g., telework, service animal, leave and attendance),
- providing readers and interpreters, and
- making the workplace readily accessible to and usable by people with disabilities.
Employers do not have to remove essential job functions, lower production standards, provide personal need items such as hearing aids and wheelchairs, or provide any accommodation that creates an undue hardship. Employers also do not need to provide an employee's preferred accommodation as long as the employer provides an effective accommodation.
If you're not sure whether the accommodation you need is something your employer must consider, you could mention your idea to your employer, but offer to consider other options.
Can I get an accommodation if I only need it temporarily or if my limitations change over time?
Yes. If you are a qualified individual with a disability as defined under the ADA, your employer must consider providing accommodations for any limitations you have related to your disability, even if temporary or episodic. An employer can simply remove an accommodation once it's no longer needed. See: Providing Temporary Accommodation Solutions.
How long should I wait for my employer to respond to my accommodation request?
There is not a specific time frame that employers have to respond to an accommodation request, but the general rule is that an employer should respond as quickly as possible. If you think it's taking your employer too long to respond, JAN offers suggestions about what you might do. See: Employee Accommodation Inquiry Letter.
If my accommodation is only approved temporarily, how often can my employer make me reapply for it?
Under the ADA, an employer must have a valid reason to make you reapply for an accommodation, especially if the reapplication includes getting new medical documentation. An employer is only allowed to require new medical documentation if the documentation you're already provided is not sufficient to support your ongoing need for an accommodation. For example, if your original documentation indicated that your limitations were temporary, your employer would be able to ask for updated documentation if the limitation lasts longer. See: Recertifying the Ongoing Need for Accommodation.
What can I do if my employer offers an accommodation that I do not think will be effective?
If you aren't sure whether the accommodation will work, you can try it and if it doesn't work, you can let your employer know. If you're sure it won't work, you can tell your employer why it won't work and ask that the employer consider other options. JAN offers guidance and a sample letter. See: How to Inform an Employer That an Accommodation is Not Effective and a Sample Letter.
What can I do if my employer won't provide the accommodations I need?
Your options vary depending on your situation, but a good starting place is to try to find out why your accommodation was denied. This might help you decide what to do next. For example, if your employer denied your request because your medical information did not show that you have a disability, you can provide additional information. Or, if your employer decided that the accommodation you requested would pose an undue hardship, you can suggest other options. For other ideas, see Your Accommodation Request Was Denied. What Now?
OTHER ACCOMMODATION ISSUES
If I have been teleworking for a while, does my employer have to allow me to continue teleworking as an accommodation?
It depends on the specific situation. If you need to continue teleworking because of your disability and can perform the essential functions of your job at home, then your employer must consider your request. If there is no disability-related limitation that requires teleworking, then your employer does not have to continue providing telework as an accommodation. Also, employers always have the option of exploring other possible accommodations so it's okay for your employer to talk to you about other reasonable accommodations that would enable you to come into the workplace. See Changing or Removing a Reasonable Accommodation in the Workplace.
I need leave for appointments and treatment. Does my employer have to allow me time off to attend these?
Under the ADA, intermittent leave for medical appointments for episodic or chronic impairments, for medical treatment, or to recover from an exacerbation of symptoms associated with a medical impairment can be requested as an accommodation to manage your medical issues. How much leave is reasonable will be determined by your employer on a case-by-case basis.
Is my employer required to accommodate the side effects of medication that I take due to my medical condition?
Yes. The side effects caused by the medication that an employee takes because of the disability are limitations resulting from the disability. Reasonable accommodation extends to all limitations resulting from a disability. See question and answer 39 at Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship under the ADA.
Is my employer required to provide the extra breaks that my doctor recommends? Are they paid breaks?
Your employer should consider your request for extra breaks; modifying when breaks are taken or allowing additional breaks can be a form of accommodation under the ADA. When providing additional breaks as an accommodation, the ADA does not require additional paid breaks beyond what other similarly situated employees receive. Instead, the employee's work hours may be extended to make up the time taken for the extra breaks, or the employee may be able to use leave. See: Modified Break Schedule.
I am having performance problems that are caused by my disability. Can my employer discipline me if they know I have a disability?
Yes, an employer can require employees with disabilities to meet the same production standards as employees without disabilities. Lowering or changing a production standard because an employee cannot meet it due to a disability is not considered a reasonable accommodation. However, your employer must consider whether there is a reasonable accommodation that would assist in meeting a specific production standard. See: Accommodation and Compliance Series: Performance.
I am having conduct problems that are caused by my disability. Can my employer discipline me if they know I have a disability?
Yes, as long as the employer's policy is job-related and consistent with business necessity, and employees without disabilities are held to the same standard. However, your employer must consider whether there is a reasonable accommodation that would assist in meeting a specific conduct standard. See: Accommodation and Compliance Series: Conduct.
My supervisor is stressing me and discriminating against me because of my disability. Can I ask for a different supervisor?
An employer does not have to provide an employee with a new supervisor as a reasonable accommodation. Nothing in the ADA, however, prohibits an employer from doing so. Although an employer is not required to change supervisors, the ADA may require that supervisory methods be altered as a form of reasonable accommodation. Also, an employee with a disability is protected from disability-based discrimination by a supervisor, including disability-based harassment.
I am stressed by meeting with my employer about my accommodation request. Can I ask to have a support person with me?
Yes, if you need the support person because of your disability. For example, individuals who have disabilities that make it difficult to manage emotions, stress, or anxiety may find a support person necessary to effectively participate in an accommodation meeting. You may need to ask for permission for the support person's attendance as an accommodation first though. See: A Support Person as an Accommodation.
Can I ask to bring my service or emotional support animal to work?
It is possible that you can use a service animal or an emotional support animal in the workplace as an accommodation, but you should ask your employer rather than showing up with the animal without warning. A request to bring a service or emotional support animal to work can be treated like any other accommodation request.
I have trouble communicating in the workplace because of my disability. What can I do?
You can ask for accommodations that will help you communicate more successfully by using the methods that are most effective for you. For example, if you have trouble communicating in face-to-face meetings, you could ask for fewer face-to-face interactions and more written directives. Or if reading is difficult, you might ask for face-to-face communication instead. See: Communication Difficulties in the Workplace.
Where can I get help if I'm feeling stressed and overwhelmed at work?
If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, you can talk with your supervisor, manager, or someone in the human resource department. Many employers have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that can help employees in crises. You may also want to get in touch with your primary care physician or your mental health provider if you have one. You can also contact your local 211 system for vital community service referrals. Call 988 for the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.
Where can I find financial assistance while I am on leave or unemployed?
For financial assistance with housing, transportation, and immediate needs of daily living, you can try the following resources:
Who do I contact if I need a job?
A good starting point is your state office of vocational rehabilitation. Vocational rehabilitation (VR), a state-supported division of services, assists individuals with disabilities who are pursuing meaningful careers. For additional resources, see Finding a Job that is Right for You.
Who do I contact if I need legal assistance?
If you don't have an attorney, you can contact your state Protection and Advocacy agency for assistance or referral.
Does my employer have to continue my medical insurance coverage while I'm on leave?
Under the ADA, employers can follow their usual policies related to insurance coverage while an employee is on leave. You may want to contact your State Department of Insurance to find out if your employer's policy complies with state insurance laws.
Who do I contact if I believe my ADA rights have been violated?
Who do I contact about my rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?
The Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, enforces the FMLA. To contact the nearest Wage and Hour Division office, visit The Department of Labor's website or call 1-866-487-9243.