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Can an employer refuse to accommodate a disability?

On Behalf of | Mar 7, 2023 | Employees' Rights |

You have a disability and you need some accommodations in order to be able to fully do your job. You thought your requests were very reasonable and fit the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Your employer, however, did not. They simply told you that the changes you’ve asked for simply “aren’t possible” or that they would be “too burdensome,” and that was the end of the discussion.

Once you initiate the topic of reasonable accommodation, a dialogue needs to happen with your employer. By law, employers must engage in an “interactive process” with you regarding your request. That means trying to work together to try to find a solution.

When can an employer deny a request?

Employers can deny accommodations when:

  • They would eliminate an essential function of your job.
  • They would require your employer to lower your performance or production standards.
  • The accommodation would cause the business undue hardship through expenses or changes in its operations.

Generally speaking, however, an employer cannot just hear out your request and then say, “Sorry, it’s too expensive or hard to manage.” They have to be able to show that the burden on them would be significant. For example, if you have lupus and you’re asking for a couch in your office and the ability to lock your door during your lunch so that you can lie down for a break to accommodate the fatigue, your employer would have to prove how that puts any significant burden on them.

Most people have heard of the ADA, but few people fully understand how it works. If you believe that your employer’s tepid response to your request for accommodations is unfair, it’s wise to find out more about your legal options.


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