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Reasonable Accommodation Vs. Undue Hardship

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         Reasonable Accommodation Vs. Undue Hardship

         In Title I of the ADA Congress wrote an open-ended definition
         of Reasonable Accommodation.  Congress intended that each
         request for Reasonable Accommodation be treated individually
         by the institution to which the request is being made.  In
         this manner, the institution affected can decide to make the
         accommodations if they are able. However, this begs the
         question of "Undue Hardship."

         The wording of Title I, Section 101 defines "Undue Hardship"
         as follows:
         (A) In General.--The term "undue hardship" means an action
         requiring significant difficulty or expense, when considered
         in the light of the factors set forth in subparagraph (B).
         (B) Factors to be considered.--In determining whether an
         accommodation would impose an undue hardship on a covered
         entity, factors to be considered include--
         (i) the nature and cost of the accommodation needed under
         this Act;
         (ii) the overall financial resources of the facility or
         facilities involved in the provision of the reasonable
         accommodation; the number of persons employed at such
         facility; the effect on expenses and resources, or the impact
         otherwise of such accommodation upon the operation of the
         facility;
         (iii) the overall financial resources of the covered entity;
         the overall size of the business of the covered entity with
         respect to the number of its employees; the number, type and
         location of its facilities; and
         (iv) the type of operation or operations of the covered
         entity, including the composition. structure, and functions
         of the workforce of such entity; the geographic separateness,
         administrative, or fiscal relationship of the facility or
         facilities in question of the covered entity.

         After reading the preceding, one can see that providing
         accommodations is not a cut-and-dried issue.  There are many
         factors to be considered and without repeating what the law
         states, let's take a look at a few case histories.  In the
         following examples the names have been changed to provide
         anonyminity for the persons involved.

         As a result of an automobile accident Mr. Jones became
         paralyzed from the waist down.  Since he had been working for
         XYZ Company for several years and desired to maintain his
         employment with this company, he requested that the restroom,
         main entrance and his office be made wheelchair accessible.
         Although the assets of the company were small and XYZ had
         only had 28 employees, the ADA required that the changes be
         made.  The changes to the restroom cost in excess of $2000.00
         and were as follows:  The comode had to be changed to one
         slightly higher, the partitioning wall had to be moved to
         provide sufficient width for his wheelchair to pass through,
         the vanity had to be replaced to allow access to the sink and
         the mirror had to be angled downward slightly. The front
         entrance only needed to have a small concrete ramp installed,
         and the changes to his office required only the relocation of
         a filing cabinet.  The company made these changes and Mr.
         Jones continues to work for them.

         Mrs. Smith developed severe arthritis in her hands.  In her
         position as a secretary/typist, she was having difficulty in
         typing.  She requested that a computer be provided that would
         translate speech to typed words. The company that she worked
         for initially refused, stating that the expense was too great
         for them.  Mrs. Smith sued under the ADA and won. The
         computer and associated program cost almost $10,000.00 and it
         was for this reason that the company initially refused.
         After installing the computer system in Mrs. Smith's cubicle
         in the typing pool it was learned that the excessive noise
         from the other employees was causing errors in her typing.
         Mrs. Smith was relocated to a quieter section of the
         building, and later became head typist of the pool.

         Both of these examples have happy endings, but there are also
         situations where accommodations have not been provided
         because the law does not provide for them.  Had Mrs. Smith
         worked for a smaller company whose assets were less than
         $100,000.00, such accommodation may not have been required by
         the ADA, as the expense of the accommodations would have
         created an undue hardship upon the company.

         There are still many grey areas in the precise interpretation
         of "Reasonable Accommodation."  These areas are currently
         being decided in the court system, and because there are so
         many individual issues to consider, it will be some time
         before we arrive at an exact definition, and even then each
         and every case will need to be treated individually.


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