ADA: How Reasonable is Reasonable?

How reasonable must a reasonable accommodation be? Is moving an employee’s work location reasonable? Is providing an employee an aide reasonable? Of course, the answer depends on the circumstances and that’s what makes ADA compliance often difficult for employers. Consider the recent example of Hill v. Assocs. for Renewal in Educ., Inc.

Mr. Hill was a single-leg amputee that taught in an after-school program. Hill’s accommodation requests included to be moved to a classroom on a lower floor as well as soliciting the help of a program aide in his classroom. Hill’s requests were to alleviate the pain he felt from standing for long periods of time.

Under the ADA an accommodation is “reasonable” if it relates to the employee’s disability and helps the employee overcome whatever employment barrier the disability creates. However, the ADA has limitations and does not require employers to completely alleviate all of the difficulties faced by the employee.

Hill argued that he needed the accommodations because he experienced pain and bruising from standing for long period of time, which inhibited his ability to supervise his class without assistance from an aide. In response, Hill’s employer argued that Hill could perform the essential functions of the job without accommodations. The court found the employer’s argument to be unavailing and determined that forcing Hill to work with pain when that pain could be alleviated by his requested accommodation violated the ADA. The court further determined that a jury could find that providing a classroom aide to Hill to help supervise his students during certain activities could be deemed reasonable.

Employers should keep in mind, that depending on the circumstances, they may be required to accommodate an employee’s disability by reallocating or redistributing non-essential job functions, or by having another employee assist the employee performing the essential function.