The United States recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This landmark act paved the way for more workers with disabilities to enter the federal government.
The act supports workers with disabilities in two key ways. It restricts discriminatory actions by federal agencies and contractors. It also forces employers to make reasonable accommodations.
When are accommodations reasonable?
The exact nature of a “reasonable” accommodation may vary, but several broader concepts remain consistent. Accommodations are “adjustments” or “modifications” that:
- Reduce discrimination in hiring, firing, pay, work opportunities and career advancement
- Help employees with disabilities enjoy the same opportunities as their coworkers
- Reduce discrimination in other work restrictions and privileges
Remember, accommodations do not have to be physical in nature. You might also request:
- Job duty updates
- Scheduling alterations
- Changes to company policies
- New equipment or software
It is often reasonable for job applicants to request a translator.
Note that accommodations may not be “reasonable” if they would place an “undue hardship” on the employer. But the definition of undue hardship changes from case to case. The EEOC looks at several factors:
- The difficulty or expense imposed by the accommodations
- The employer’s size and finances
- The nature of the employer’s operations
- The employer’s business structure
The simple truth is this: If you believe you need accommodation, you have every right to pursue it.
What do employers need to know?
Many applicants and employees wonder if they must disclose their disabilities. If you do not need an accommodation, the answer is, “No.” You do not need to disclose your disability.
However, employers only need to make accommodations to help employees who have disabilities. If you need an accommodation, you need to explain why. In this case, you must disclose your disability.
This may be a cause for stress, but it doesn’t have to be. The law protects you from retaliatory actions. And thanks to the Rehabilitation Act, your employer should help you with any reasonable request.