A disabled employee asks her employer for an accommodation. After engaging in the interactive process, it becomes clear that the accommodation requested is going to be challenging. At what point can the employer say “no” to an accommodation request because it creates an undue hardship?
If the accommodation is cost prohibitive, that can be enough to show undue hardship. But the question of undue hardship is not limited to financial burden. In other words, just because a company can monetarily afford to provide the accommodation requested, it is not necessarily required to do so.
Accommodations that are “unduly extensive, substantial, or disruptive” can create an undue hardship regardless of monetary cost. See US E.E.O.C. v. Placer ARC, 114 F. Supp. 3d 1048, 1058 (E.D. Cal. 2015). Maybe a requested accommodation would not financially break the company, but it would affect essential operational flexibility. That can be enough to show undue hardship. See Barth v. Gelb, 2 F.3d 1180 (D.C. Cir. 1993).
Of course, the law expects employers to accept certain costs, inefficiencies, and burdens to keep disabled employees working. Whether hardship is undue will depend on the employer’s size and resources.
Finally, remember that if no reasonable accommodation exists, and/or if the accommodation creates an undue hardship, the employer should consider reassigning the disabled employee to another vacant position.
Talia Saypoff is an associate with Fox Rothschild where she defends and advises companies in a variety of employment law matters, including discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wage and hour, misclassification, reasonable accommodation, the interactive process, breach of contract and more. She handles all aspects of single plaintiff and class action cases. She also advises employers regarding hiring, performance management, termination, internal investigations, policies and procedures, leaves of absence, and pre-litigation matters.
This publication is intended for general information purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice. The reader should consult with knowledgeable legal counsel to determine how applicable laws apply to specific facts and situations. This publication is based on the most current information at the time it was written. Since it is possible that the laws or other circumstances may have changed since publication, please call legal counsel to discuss any action you may be considering as a result of reading this publication.