Choosing Reasonable Accommodation Under the ADA

May 3, 2011, 3:29 PM

Title I of 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, unless to do so would cause undue hardship. In general, an accommodation is any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities.

A common question for employers faced with requests for accommodation is whether they must provide the reasonable accommodation preferred or requested by the employee. The answer to that question is no. Instead, the employer may choose among reasonable accommodations as long as the chosen accommodation is effective. For example, if there are two possible reasonable accommodations, and one costs more or is more burdensome that the other, the employer may choose the less expensive or burdensome accommodation as long as it is effective. The employer does not have to show that it is an undue hardship to provide the more expensive or burdensome accommodation.

While complying with the ADA is often tricky and requires careful case-by-case analysis, one rule of thumb is that the employer providing the accommodation has the ultimate discretion to choose between effective accommodations. --David J. Sullivan