Reasonable accommodation is a right established by the Americans with Disability Act or “ADA.” The ADA says that an employer cannot discriminate against an employee who is able to perform the essential functions of a position with or without reasonable accommodation. There are enough concepts stuffed into that one phrase that multi-volume treatises can, and have, been written about the meaning of each of the words. This post can only give the most basic introduction to the law of this area, but it will give you some idea of how the reasonable accommodation part of this law can help you keep working. We will also discuss reasonable accommodation and strengthening your LTD claim.
The ADA requires employers to reasonably accommodate disabled employees by eliminating job functions that are not essential functions of the job or modifying the way they are performed, as long as the employee can still perform the essential functions of the position. Whether or not an accommodation will be considered “reasonable” depends crucially on the particular job. Eliminating a requirement of lifting a 50 lb. box might be reasonable if the workplace has several other employees who can do it instead, but it might not be reasonable if the employee works alone.
The landscape of reasonable accommodation has been radically altered by COVID pandemic work restrictions. The ability to work from home part or full time has always been one of the most sought-after accommodations by my clients, but also one that most employers did not easily grant. Now, it is much harder for employers to argue that it is unreasonable to allow work from home when so many people have worked from home for months during the pandemic.
Among the types of reasonable accommodations that are helpful to those with cognitive and physical degenerative positions include:
Many of these accommodations can be difficult to get, especially since many employers still don’t realize how much the ADA requires them to do to accommodate disabilities. For instance, an employer in Fairfield County refused working from home as a reasonable accommodation because “then everyone will want it.” Giving something to someone with a disability a benefit that everyone else doesn’t get is the essence of a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. .
For more information about how reasonable accommodation can help you and the challenges and opportunities of working while disabled, see the Keep Working and Protect Your LTD benefits article I wrote for this blog.
In additional to potentially allowing you to work longer, requesting reasonable accommodation can also put you in a better position when you apply for long-term disability benefits or in appealing a denial of long-term disability benefits, even if the accommodation request is denied. When someone has kept working while disabled, and then decides to leave and collect disability benefits, the insurer will frequently argue that the person just doesn’t want to work anymore, and really could keep working, in other words, claiming the person is a malingerer who could work, but just doesn’t want to.
Applying for reasonable accommodation is a great counter to a claim that you just don’t want to work, since the point of asking for reasonable accommodation is to allow you to keep working. It is hard to argue you are a malingerer if you show you did everything you could to keep working. You therefore get a benefit from asking for reasonable accommodation even if the employer refuses to provide it. And, some long-term disability policies only provide you are disabled if there are not reasonable accommodations that would allow you to continue to perform your job. If you have asked for reasonable accommodations and the employer has said no, it is hard for the insurance company to argue that the accommodations that the employer declined to provide are reasonable
Having a lawyer negotiate reasonable accommodation can help you stay at work longer, if that is what you would like to do, and make it more likely that your long-term disability claim will be granted once you do apply:
Reasonable accommodation is a powerful tool to allow you work as long as you want to, while strengthening your long-term disability claim once you do file. Whether you suffer from multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, back pain, rheumatoid arthritis or any other chronic degenerative condition, working with an experienced LTD claims attorney can help you navigate the difficult terrain of the move from diagnosis to disability.
For more information on the ADA, please see https://www.ada.gov/.