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Accommodations in the workplace: employees’ right is not unlimited

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the United States experience mental illness annually. For many of these Americans, there are periods of time where it is impossible to keep to a normal routine and it becomes impossible to carry on business as usual. This can and does negatively affect employment.

Medical leave laws make it possible for those with mental illnesses to take job-protected leave, and this is certainly a positive thing. Depending on the employer’s policy, some leave may even be paid. When an employee runs out of leave, though, it is necessary to return to work to keep his or her job, regardless of the employee’s condition. 

Fortunately, federal law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires Employers to provide reasonable accommodations to job applicants and workers. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits disability discrimination in programs operated by the federal government, also requires reasonable accommodation of disabilities.

According to the Department of Justice, a reasonable accommodation is defined as, “any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions.” The right to a workplace accommodation is not unlimited, and is not determined by whether the employee thinks it is reasonable.

In our next post, we’ll look at a recently court case demonstrating the limits of the reasonable accommodation requirement.


U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Americans with Disabilities Act: Questions and Answers, Updated Oct. 9, 2008.

Disability.gov, Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Accessed Dec. 9, 2016. 

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