More and more of our members are asking us our advice on the term reasonable accommodation?

To begin our discussion, we must understand that what may be considered to be reasonable for one company may not be reasonable for another company.  It may be a reasonable accommodation for a larger company to provide wheelchair access, but for a smaller company, this may not be financially feasible.  The fact that what is reasonable for some companies and not reasonable for others means that employers are going to have to use their best judgment in some cases.

But with that being said, employers need to make an honest assessment as to what is reasonable accommodation and what is not. Let’s for a moment discuss some areas where employers could be expected to make adjustments.

  • Time off for doctors appointments
  • Adjustments to the employee’s job description
  • Change of schedule

One of the things that employers want to be careful of is that they don’t go too far with these accommodations.  Going too far means that the employee is being favored beyond what would be reasonable in the companies accommodation.  At the same time, if a woman is pregnant and is doing a lot of heavy lifting as part of her job, it would be in the best interest of the employer to remove that aspect of her job as much as possible.

The bigger the company is, the more that will be required to be considered a reasonable accommodation.  If the company has a way to help out the employee they need to do it.

If on the other hand, the company is very small and has no one who can help with the lifting as an example this company will not be required to hire an employee just to do the lifting end of the job.

Hiring an extra employee just to do the lifting would pose an undue hardship on a small company.

Doctors Appointments:

If the employee has to go to the doctor once a week, this may be reasonable depending on the size of the company and the inconvenience that having the employee miss a part of the day or maybe even all of the day to go to the doctor.  If the company can fill the employee’s needs without causing an undue burden, then the company needs to accommodate.

Change of Schedule:

Since we have already discussed the adjustment to an employee’s job description, the last topic we will cover will be the change of schedule.  And, in truth, there really is not much to discuss there that is any different than what we have already covered.  A larger company with more assets will be required to more than a smaller company with fewer assets.  As an employer, you will know if the accommodation that is being asked of you is reasonable or not.

Our Advice:

As a Cal-OSHA Consulting Service our advice is to be careful on both fronts, don’t do too much, and don’t do too little.  Remember that whatever you do for one employee will become a precedent for future cases.

Should you have any questions we would love to hear from you.  We love questions, so don’t be shy, give us a call.