What Reasonable Accommodations Must an Employer Provide? Image of three people sitting at a desk and one is in a wheelchair

The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals with disabilities who are employees or applicants for employment. However, this requirement of accommodation is inapplicable if it would cause an undue hardship.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) defines a “reasonable accommodation” as any change in the workplace or the way things are customarily done that provides an equal employment opportunity to an individual with a disability.

A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a position, the work environment, or the manner in which tasks are usually completed in the hiring process. A modification allows disabled persons to have an equal opportunity to get a job and perform their job tasks successfully and to the same level as those without disabilities.

The ADA requires reasonable accommodations as they concern these facets of employment:

  • Ensuring equal opportunity in the application process;
  • Enabling a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of a job; and
  • Making it possible for an employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment.

How Does an Employee Request a Reasonable Accommodation?

An employee must inform his or her employer that they require an adjustment or change at work for a valid reason of a medical condition or disability. The employer doesn’t have to accept the exact request; however, it must enter into a discussion or interactive process with the employee or applicant to see if any accommodation can be made.

What Happens if an Employer Fails to Provide A Reasonable Accommodation?

An employer’s failure to accommodate an individual’s medical condition or disability may be discrimination when it unfairly excludes certain classes of people. Such action deprives otherwise qualified individuals of their fundamental right to discrimination-free employment. As a result, New York employers must provide reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals.

Remember that the prohibition against discrimination applies to all facets of employment, including hiring, job assignments, promotion, and termination.

What Qualifies as “Reasonable”?

New York’s Human Rights Law (HRL) guarantees the same rights as the ADA but also applies to smaller employers not subject to the Act and other federal laws. “Undue burden” is defined as significant difficulty or expense. In determining whether an action would result in an undue burden, factors to be considered are the nature and cost of the accommodation concerning the size, resources, nature, and structure of the employer's operation. Undue hardship is determined on a case-by-case basis.

Where the facility making the accommodation is a component of a larger entity, the structure and overall resources of the larger organization are considered, along with the financial and administrative relationship of the facility to the larger organization. In other words, a larger employer with greater resources would be expected to make accommodations that necessitate more work or expense than that of a smaller employer with fewer resources.

If a certain accommodation would be an undue hardship to the employer, it must attempt to identify another accommodation that will not pose such a hardship. In addition, if the expense of an accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer, the disabled person should be given the option to pay the portion of the cost that would constitute an undue hardship or provide the accommodation.

What Types of Accommodations Are Generally Considered Reasonable?

There are some common accommodations that employers make for employees with disabilities. These include:

  • Changing the tasks associated with the position;
  • Providing reserved parking;
  • Providing or altering tools, equipment, or software;
  • Improving the accessibility in the employee’s work station;
  • Giving the employee additional aids or services to increase their access;
  • Modifying the format or presentation of tests and training materials;
  • Modifying the company’s “no animals” policy to welcome an employee’s service animal;
  • Permitting a flexible work schedule; and
  • Reassigning the employee to a different available position.


The Americans with Disabilities Act applies to all businesses with 15 or more employees; however, New York’s Human Rights Law applies to businesses that have employed four or more people within the past year.

To be certain that your business is compliant with both New York and federal law, contact Love Law Firm. We can help you with any questions about reasonable accommodations, how to respond to employee requests, and the workplace requirements for New York small businesses.


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Francine E. Love is the Founder & Managing Attorney at LOVE LAW FIRM, PLLC which dedicates its practice to serving entrepreneurs, start-ups and small businesses. The opinions expressed are those of the author. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice. 

Francine E. Love
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Founder and Managing Attorney at Love Law Firm, PLLC which dedicates its practice to New York business law