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PRESS RELEASE
3-1-99

EEOC RELEASES ADA POLICY GUIDANCE ON JOB ACCOMMODATIONS FOR INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today released a comprehensive policy guidance entitled Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The guidance addresses the duty of employers to provide "reasonable accommodations" to applicants and employees with disabilities under Title I of the ADA. The Commission also released a shorter version of the guidance entitled Small Employers and Reasonable Accommodation.

"This area of the law has been subject to numerous interpretations and/or applications. We believe that the guidance we have issued will help employers and people with disabilities alike to better understand their rights and responsibilities," said EEOC Chairwoman Ida L. Castro. "It will help to remove barriers so that people with disabilities can earn a paycheck and employers can have productive workers."

The obligation to provide reasonable accommodation is one of the fundamental requirements of the ADA, which prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities by both private sector and state and local government employers with 15 or more employees. Reasonable accommodations remove obstacles to employment that prevent persons with disabilities from applying for and performing jobs. These barriers may be physical impediments, such as inaccessible facilities or equipment, or inflexible rules, such as when or how a job is performed.

EEOC Commissioner Paul Steven Miller hailed the guidance, stating "This document is an extremely useful tool for both the business and disability communities, and those working to ensure the rights of the disabled."

"This guidance provides clear answers to the most frequently-asked questions concerning what reasonable accommodations are, when they must be provided, and when employers may refuse to provide them," Chairwoman Castro said.

The following ADA issues are addressed in the guidance:

  • The responsibility of individuals with disabilities to request reasonable accommodation and the way an employer should respond to a request;
  • The circumstances under which employers may ask for documentation showing the need for reasonable accommodation;
  • Reasonable accommodations for job applicants;
  • Reasonable accommodations to provide access to employer-sponsored training programs, services (such as the office cafeteria), and social functions;
  • New information on many types of reasonable accommodations, including job restructuring, unpaid leave, part-time schedules, modified workplace policies, and reassignment;
  • The relationship between the obligation to provide leave as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA and the requirements of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA);
  • Changes that employers are not required to make to a job, such as lowering production standards or removing a primary job duty; and
  • Those instances in which employers may deny a request for a reasonable accommodation because it imposes an "undue hardship" (for example, when an accommodation would disrupt or prevent other employees from doing their jobs).

"Effective accommodation can easily be provided when the employer and the person with a disability have an open discussion," noted Chairwoman Castro. The question-and-answer format of the guidance, together with the use of examples, provides practical advice to enable employers and individuals with disabilities to identify effective accommodations that remove workplace barriers. The guidance also provides a list of resources to help employers and people with disabilities identify reasonable accommodations.

The guidance represents the Commission's most complete discussion of "undue hardship" to date. Undue hardship is a limitation on an employer's obligation to make reasonable accommodation. "As this guidance points out, providing a reasonable accommodation does not mean excusing poor performance or hiring unqualified people," Ms. Castro stated. The guidance makes it clear that an employer does not have to spend exorbitant sums of money or disrupt its operations to provide a reasonable accommodation.

"This guidance will not only help investigators to handle ADA charges more efficiently, but will also provide useful guidance to courts in deciding novel or complex reasonable accommodation issues," Chairwoman Castro said. "Perhaps most importantly, it will enable employers and individuals with disabilities to resolve reasonable accommodation issues in a practical, common sense way -- before they become the subject of an EEOC charge or lawsuit."

The free guidance may be obtained through the EEOC's Publications Distribution Center's toll free telephone number (800-669-3362 or TTY 800-800-3302), or writing to EEOC's Office of Communications and Legislative Affairs, 1801 L Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20507. The text of the document will also be available on EEOC's web site (www.eeoc.gov).

In addition to enforcing Title I of the ADA, EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; the Equal Pay Act; prohibitions against discrimination affecting individuals with disabilities in the federal government; and sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.