We get a lot of questions from disabled employees about reasonable accommodations. Our main accommodation page details when employers must give disabled employees a reasonable accommodation. But that page doesn’t give too many practical examples, so we’ve put this page together to show some reasonable accommodation examples that corporations provide to disabled employees.
Legal Reasonable Accommodation Examples
California disability discrimination law defines a “reasonable accommodation” as “modifications or adjustments that are effective in enabling an applicant with a disability to have an equal opportunity to be considered for a desired job, . . . an employee to perform the essential functions of the job the employee holds or desires, or . . . to enjoy equivalent benefits and privileges of employement as are enjoyed by similarly situated employees without disabilities.”  That’s a mouthful, right? This can mean many things, so below is a list of some reasonable accommodation examples.
California Code of Regulations § 7293.6(p)(2) gives us some good reasonable accommodation examples:
(A) Making existing facilities used by applicants and employees readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. This may include, but is not limited to, providing accessible break rooms, restrooms, training rooms, or reserved parking places; acquiring or modifying furniture, equipment or devices; or making other similar adjustments in the work environment;
(B) Allowing applicants or employees to bring assistive animals to the work site;
(C) Transferring an employee to a more accessible worksite;
(D) Providing assistive aids and services such as qualified readers or interpreters to an applicant or employee;
(E) Job Restructuring. This may include, but is not limited to, reallocation or redistribution of non–essential job functions in a job with multiple responsibilities;
(F) Providing a part–time or modified work schedule;
(G) Permitting an alteration of when and/or how an essential function is performed;
(H) Providing an adjustment or modification of examinations, training materials or policies;
(I) Modifying an employer policy;
(J) Modifying supervisory methods (e.g., dividing complex tasks into smaller parts);
(K) Providing additional training;
(L) Permitting an employee to work from home;
(M) Providing a paid or unpaid leave for treatment and recovery, consistent with section 7293.9, subdivision (c);
(N) Providing a reassignment to a vacant position, consistent with section 7293.9, subdivision (d); and
(O) other similar accommodations.
Part-time or Modified Work Schedule
One of the common the ways that an employer may reasonably accommodate their employee is to make a change in their schedule. This can range from being a temporary change as the employee recuperates from their injury or it may include a permanent change. It can be limiting hours or just allowing for extra time for the employee to come into work. So long as it does not create an undue hardship, one’s employer has a lot of flexibility in this regard.
As technology advances the ability to work from home has become increasingly more reliable and feasible. While reasonable accommodation examples such as this are becoming more mainstream, the possibility of this as an option is usually dependent upon whether it is cost prohibitive to the employer. In the cases of smaller businesses, it may be considered an undue hardship.
A Place to Sit and/or Different Desk
A lot of work restrictions that we see through client intakes at our office involve sitting, standing, being stationary or moving for more than an allotted amount of time. These situations can be remedied in a number of ways including, but not limited to, stand-up desks, chairs with multiple points of articulation, miniature ottomans (if you need to keep your foot elevated), and much more. Again, the main concern with this accommodation is the cost your employer may incur.
For some individuals with limited mobility, reasonable accommodation examples may include the proximity of where they may park. Many retail stores are not too keen on their employees parking close to the front of the store as they prefer those spots to be available for customers. A disabled employee with mobility concerns may, however, be allowed the reasonable accommodation of parking in a disabled parking spot in front of the store.
Flexibility of Rules
The courts have said that a slight tweaking of rules can serve as reasonable accommodation examples. In A.M. v. Albertsons, LLC, the plaintiff suffered from dry mouth as a side effect of radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Though defendant Albertsons did not normally allow checkstand workers to have beverages at their station, they allowed the plaintiff to have water with her as a reasonable accommodation.
When you think about the point of “reasonable accommodations” this example makes a lot of sense. Having a bottle of water at the plaintiff’s checkstand made it possible for her to perform the essential duties of her perform (ringing up customers). And a company would be hard-pressed to say that having a water bottle present creates an undue hardship in a grocery store where they sell the item! In this particular case, it turned out to be a completely different issue (discussed below) that brought it to trial.
Sometimes reasonable accommodations examples can be as simple as providing extra breaks. Again we look at A.M. v. Albertsons, LLC, where the plaintiff was constantly drinking water to combat the dry mouth that she suffered. And as you may suspect, constantly drinking water would lead you to have to use the restroom more frequently. Albertsons addressed this aspect of the plaintiff’s request by telling her that whenever she needed to use the restroom she just had to tell a manager, who would cover for her at the checkstand.
Again, this is by no means rocket science. Though one might be able to argue that this is a little more of a hardship than the water bottle at the checkstand above, it is still a very easy accommodation to make to allow someone to perform their job. Though it is not the point of this article, the issue in this case occurred when one of the managers did not follow through with this accommodation.
Short Leave of Absence or Additional Time-off
Along the same lines as “extra breaks,” a short leave of absence or time-off as needed is viewed as reasonable accommodation examples. In Surrell v. California Water Service Co., the employee claimed disability discrimination against her employer stating a lack of reasonable accommodations. The plaintiff had been involved a non-work-related car accident which lead to a her having a hard time lifting her hands above her head.
The plaintiff’s job involved customer service over the phone, so one can see how this could be problematic. The Court found that every time the plaintiff was unable to work due her injuries, her company provided her with a leave of absence. Even the plaintiff ended up admitting that she knew of no other accommodation that could have been provided by the company to remedy her situation.
Alternative Job Within the Company
When all else fails, one final instance of reasonable accommodations examples can be found in Prilliman v, United Air Lines, Inc. In this case, the court stated that “an employer who is aware of an employee’s disability has an affirmative duty to help the employee find an alternative job within the company if the employer offers similar assistance to other employees or can do so without undue hardship.”
An interesting point about this case is that there were two plaintiffs, and each one received a different verdict highlighting this rule. The first plaintiff, a pilot named Rafalowski, was grounded after being diagnosed with AIDS and medical complications that accompanied it. Rafalowski’s deterioration because of the disease and complications lead to him being occasionally in a wheelchair only a few months later. The Court found that had United Air Lines looked for an alternative job for him when he was diagnosed, they would have been unable to find one he could perform (“undue hardship”).
Prilliman, on the other hand, did not have such an immediate decline and was “well within normal limits as to intellectual ability and motor skills.” The Court determined that Prilliman was initially capable of performing some alternative job for United Air Lines had they provided such a reasonable accommodation
In summary, if you feel as though your employer failed to make a reasonable accommodation for any known physical or mental disabilities, you may have a claim. You should contact a disability discrimination attorney to have your case evaluated. This page details reasonable accommodation examples, but an experienced employment attorney will know more about this subject.