What Is and Is Not a Reasonable Accommodation?

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodations to employees or applicants with a disability when the disability influences work performance unless doing so would cause undue hardship. An accommodation, in general, is any change made to the work environment or work processes that removes workplace barriers and enables an individual with a disability to have equal employment opportunities.

There are two main categories within “accommodations”:

  1. Applicant: modifications to a work environment and/or processes that enable a qualified individual with a disability to apply and be considered for a position; and
  2. Employee: modifications to the work environment and/or processes that assures a qualified employee with a disability has opportunity to perform the essential functions of the position and/or to access and receive all benefits and opportunities afforded by the employer to employees without disabilities.

Reasonable Accommodation

Reasonable accommodation is considered to be an accommodation that does not provide undue hardship to the employer. A listing of reasonable accommodations is a non exhaustive list as each accommodation is individualized to the context of the employee and employer’s situation. For example, a request for Non FMLA Unpaid Leave may be a reasonable accommodation in some situations. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is a good resource for simple accommodation ideas.

Unreasonable Accommodation

An unreasonable accommodation is one that creates undue hardship for the employer. Undue hardship is defined as an undue burden such as a change to the organizational structure where the job resides, change to the purpose or intent of the job, and/or monetary expense (note, the EEOC considers the University of Iowa budget and not individual unit budgets in evaluating monetary concerns).