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When can you deny a reasonable accommodation request?

On Behalf of | May 5, 2023 | Employment Law For Employers

A workplace discrimination lawsuit can threaten the goodwill that your business has developed over the years, not to mention your company’s bottom line. The bad press associated with one of these claims can disrupt your operations, too, perhaps affecting your ability to secure talent and clients in the future.

With so much on the line, you need to know how to get out ahead of issues about disabled employees so that you can protect yourself as much as possible and avoid litigation if at all possible. One way to do this is to know how to deal with reasonable accommodation requests.

How should you handle a reasonable accommodation request?

It depends on the circumstances. What you don’t want to do, though, is shut out your employee without discussing the matter. Try to gain a clear understanding of what it is that they’re requesting and why they think they need the accommodation. Then, once you have a firm understanding of what’s being requested, you can start analyzing your ability to fulfill that request.

How to tell if you should grant or deny a reasonable accommodation request

Once a request is made, you should analyze the costs associated with it in light of what your business can afford. But just because you have the funds to cover a reasonable accommodation request doesn’t mean that you have to. Instead, you’ll want to consider how the request affects your business, as it might create an undue burden. Therefore, you should assess each of the following when trying to decide whether to grant an accommodation request:

  • The expense associated with the accommodation
  • Your company’s financial resources
  • How the accommodation will affect your business operations
  • The size of your company
  • The type of work that your company does

If after conducting this assessment you feel that you have articulable justifications for denying the request, then you should reach out to your employee to see if you can find an alternative accommodation. This extra effort will help show that you’re trying to meet your employee’s need in a fiscally responsible fashion, which will downplay any argument that your denial was justified on a discriminatory basis.

Therefore, before denying a request, you might want to consider whether there are outside sources of funding for the accommodation. After you deny a request, you should talk to the employee to see if there are alternatives to the accommodation that would achieve the same outcome.

What if you end up on the receiving end of litigation?

If your employee files a lawsuit against you for workplace discrimination, then you’ll need to be thorough in analyzing the case and crafting the legal arguments that protect your position. Consider not only the financial costs associated with the accommodation but also the:

  • Lost efficiencies
  • Infringement on other workers’ rights
  • Compromises to workplace safety
  • Uneven workloads to accommodate the request

By looking here, you may be able to find the evidence that you need to show that the employment action that you took was not discriminatory in nature. Keep in mind that you’ll need to present concrete evidence here rather than posing hypotheticals or speculative scenarios.

Build the strong defense that you need

A poorly handled employment discrimination case can wreak havoc on you and your business. That’s why you need to know the ins and outs of the law as you prepare to defend yourself. Only then can you rest assured that you can create the compelling legal arguments that you need on your side.

Although that might sound daunting, it doesn’t have to be. You can educate yourself and find the support that you need to hopefully position yourself for success in your case.