Applicants and employees who are disabled are protected against employment discrimination based on their disabling conditions under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Disabled workers can ask for reasonable accommodations that can help them perform the tasks of their jobs. Determining whether or not a requested accommodation is reasonable can be a sticking point for both employees and employers. An employer does not have to provide a requested accommodation if doing so would create an undue hardship for the employer. Here is what you need to know about what an undue hardship is from the employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler.
What Is an Undue Hardship?
Employers can defend against complaints that they failed to reasonably accommodate disabled workers by claiming that the requested accommodations would create an undue hardship for the employers. This is a recognized legal defense that employers often raise when they are sued for failing to provide accommodations.
The ADA does not require an employer to provide an accommodation that would create an undue hardship. The law defines an undue hardship as anything that would substantially alter the business’s operations or nature or that is unreasonably expensive, extensive, disruptive, or substantial.
Factors Courts Consider
Courts consider a variety of factors when determining whether a requested accommodation would create an undue hardship, including the following:
- Type of accommodation requested and its net cost
- The employer’s overall financial resources
- How many employees does the employer have
- Locations, types, and number of the employer’s facilities
- The business’s structure and composition and the functions of the workforce
- The geographic separation of the administrative and fiscal location and the facility in which the accommodations would be provided
If the requested accommodations would be provided within a specific facility, the court will consider the financial resources of that facility, how many employees work in the facility, and the impact that providing the accommodation would have on the facility’s resources and expenses.
Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA)
Under USERRA, employers are not required to train or re-train returning military service members for re-employment if doing so would create an undue hardship for the employer. They are also not required to accommodate people with service-related disabilities if doing so would create an undue hardship.
USERRA considers an action to create an undue hardship if it would create a substantial expense or difficulty for the employer to provide by analyzing factors that are substantially similar to those listed above.
Undue Hardship and Religious Accommodations
An employee’s religion is a protected characteristic recognized by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Under this law, employers do not have to provide religious accommodations if doing so would cause an undue hardship. This has been interpreted as anything creating more than a minimal cost on the employer’s operations.
To determine whether a religious accommodation would create an undue hardship, courts consider the following factors:
- Workplace type
- The employee’s duties
- The cost of providing the accommodation as related to the business’s size and operating costs
- How many employees need the requested accommodation
- Whether the accommodation would impose safety issues
- Whether the accommodation would infringe on other employees’ rights
For example, if a facility employs a large number of Muslim employees who want to have breaks to pray, the court might consider the size of the facility and its ability to provide a space for the employees to pray, whether providing breaks for employees would disrupt the employer’s operations and its profits, and other factors.
Employers are not required to offer accommodations. Instead, the employee has the burden of requesting them. Once an employee asks for accommodations, the employer will then determine whether they are reasonable. If the employer denies the accommodations request, the employee might file a claim.
The employee will have the burden of showing that they have a recognized disability under the ADA or have a particular religious belief that requires accommodations. They will then need to show that the accommodations they requested were reasonable. The reasonableness of an accommodation will depend on the court’s analysis of its expense, size, and other factors. If the employee succeeds in showing the requested accommodation was reasonable, the employer will then have the burden of showing that providing it would create an undue hardship.
Determining whether an undue hardship would be imposed by a requested accommodation is done on a case-by-case basis through the court’s analysis of the various factors. If the employer succeeds in proving that the requested accommodation would have created an undue hardship, the plaintiff will not prevail.
Get Help from Swartz Swidler
If you need accommodations from your employer for your disabling condition or religion, and your request has been denied, you should speak to the attorneys at Swartz Swidler. We can help you understand how the court might evaluate the various factors in determining whether your requested accommodation was reasonable and if it would create an undue hardship. If your requested accommodation appears reasonable and unlikely to create an undue hardship, we can negotiate with your employer to try to secure the accommodations you need. Call us today to learn more about your case and your potential legal options at (856) 685-7420.