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/.
Chronic degenerative conditions are common reasons for people to apply for long-term disability benefits based on cognitive or physical impairments resulting from the conditions. While much will be unknown about the course of the disease, that the conditions will ultimately result in inability to perform one’s job is unfortunately an inevitability, particularly for those who are years away from retirement. Many chronic conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, degenerative cognitive disorders such as early-onset Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (“ALS” or Lou Gehrig’s Disease) all lead to increasing fatigue, cognitive impairment, and physical impairments which make a long-term disability claim inevitable for many. Knowing that one is likely to become disabled in the future without knowing the extent or timing of the disability must be one of the hardest parts of dealing with a chronic condition like these.
One benefit of knowing that one is likely to be disabled is the ability to plan, to take actions now while you are still working to smoothly transition from work to disability, and to increase your chances of being awarded long-term disability benefits. While all these conditions differ in many ways, there are some things that commonly affect almost everyone who applied for long-term disability insurance benefits.
This site has a series of articles dealing with this common issues in apply for long-term disability for chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease Below are links to these articles:
As a Connecticut ERISA – LTD attorney who has represented many claimants in long-term disability appeals, I know that actions you take now can make a huge difference when you finally make your application for long -term disability benefits. I hope this series will provide guidance to employees with chronic degenerative diseases to make this transition from working to disability as smooth as possible.
When to tell your employer that you suffer from a degenerative condition is a difficult one. You don’t want to be treated like a disabled person before you have to, but you don’t want to harm your future application for long-term disability benefits by waiting too long to do so.
In this post, I discuss what you should consider in deciding when to tell your employer about your condition so you can protect your career so long as you are able to work, and put yourself in the best shape possible for a future application for long-term disability benefits.
Telling your employer is one of the key tactical decisions in the process of moving from diagnosis to application. Discuss it with a trusted adviser and make the decision deliberately. Consulting with an ERISA long-term disability lawyer who is familiar with Connecticut and federal employment laws can be a big help in navigating the transition from work to disability, and in pursuing any appeals of a long-term disability denial, and is crucial if you want to sue for a denial of long-term disability benefits.