The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) make it illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee on the basis of his or her disability. More than just prohibiting disability discrimination, these laws also require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. But what should you do if your employer ignores or denies your accommodation request?
- Make sure your employer understands its legal obligation to provide you a reasonable disability accommodation.
While uncommon, employers sometimes ignore or disregard accommodation requests. In our experience, this is more likely to happen when requests are made informally or made to employers without an HR department. If your employer ignores your accommodation request, it is important to make sure your employer understood the request and to be specific about the employer’s legal obligation. Communicate to your employer in writing that you are requesting “disability accommodation” pursuant the ADA and MHRA and that these laws give you a right to a reasonable accommodation for your disability. If your employer continues to ignore your request or otherwise refuses to respond, you should reach out to an experienced employment attorney to assess your situation and demand action from your employer.
- Be sure your accommodation request was reasonable.
The ADA and MHRA give employees with disabilities a right to accommodation for their disabilities, but the accommodation must be “reasonable.” Accordingly, if your employer denied your accommodation request, you should consider whether your request was reasonable. Whether an accommodation is reasonable is usually a common sense analysis. An employer is required to provide feasible changes to an employee’s work environment or the way things are customarily done to enable them to do their job. However, an employer is not required to make an accommodation that causes it an “undue hardship” – usually determined by the expensive and difficulty relative the employer’s size, resources, and structure.
- Exhaust the “interactive process” with your employer to find a reasonable accommodation.
Your employer is obligated under the ADA and MHRA to engage in an “interactive process” to reach an agreed upon accommodation. In other words, while your employer doesn’t need to immediately grant your accommodation request, it has to participate in a good faith conversation to identify an accommodation that is mutually satisfactory. Accordingly, make your employer aware of this obligation and be prepared to share your medical restrictions or other information that supports your need for accommodation as part of the process.
- Consider legal action.
If you’ve clearly requested a reasonable accommodation that does not create an undue hardship for the employer but your employers has failed to provide an effective accommodation, your employer is violating state and federal disability law. It is time to call an employment attorney to discuss your legal options. These options will include the attorney approaching your employer regarding the accommodation request or prosecuting a legal action with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, or state or federal courts.