Employment Discrimination Blog

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Requests for a Modified Schedule: What is a ‘Reasonable Accommodation’

As an employee, you may have heard of the notion of “reasonable accommodation” in the workplace. What does this mean exaction? The phrase stems from a body of law which governs the ways in which an employer is required to treat an employee (or potential employee) who has a recognized disability that could impact his or her job performance. Under anti-discrimination laws both in the State of Georgia and federal law, an employer is prohibited from discriminating against an employee or candidate due to the disability. Further, the employer must make accommodations for that employee. However, the employee’s rights are not limitless, and an employer is only required to make accommodations that would not be unreasonably burdensome or create a safety hazard for others.

In many cases, a disability may require a worker to need a modified work schedule. This is an example of a reasonable accommodation that an employer is required to make, assuming it would not be excluded by the exceptions described above. As a general rule, absent undue hardship, an employer is required by law to offer a disabled employee a modified or part-time work schedule upon request. This could include any of the following:

  • Adjusting an employee’s arrival or departure time
  • Providing extra breaks
  • Allowing for additional unpaid leave
  • Allowing the employee to work part-time, even if the same is not offered to every employee

It may be the case that certain job functions must be performed at certain, regular times. In this instance, the employer may have a valid claim for undue hardship if forced to allow the employee to work at irregular hours. In this case, the law still requires the employer to consider the employee for other vacant positions that may be more accommodating to the employee’s needs.

Under federal law, protection for disabled employees in need of modified work schedules may be found under the FMLA and/or the ADA. Under the ADA, the employer is bound by the undue hardship analysis described above. Further, an employee requesting part-time work is only entitled to equivalent benefits and insurance coverage offered to other part-time employees. Under the FMLA, the employee may take intermittent leave due to the disability up to the equivalent of 12 weeks, at which point the employer may require the employee to temporarily transfer to an equivalent position. When relying upon FMLA for leave time, the employer is required to maintain the employee’s existing level of coverage under the group insurance plan.

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