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When Does Failure to Accommodate Constitute Disability Employment Discrimination in Massachusetts?

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) provides much needed legal protection to many workers throughout the United States, including in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. One of the central goals of the ADA is to remove some of the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from enjoying fair and equal opportunities in the workplace. 

Not only does the ADA prohibit disability discrimination, it requires covered employers to provide a reasonable accommodation for disabled workers. Failure to do so could be a legal violation. Here, our Massachusetts employee rights attorneys explain the key things to know about when a company’s failure to accommodate a disability constitutes workplace discrimination.

Background: What is a Reasonable Accommodation?

As defined by the United States Department of Labor (DOL), a reasonable accommodation is “a modification or adjustment to a job, the work environment, or the way things are usually done during the hiring process.” A reasonable accommodation should change things in a manner that allows a disabled person to do a job for which they are fundamentally qualified. 

What a reasonable workplace accommodation looks like in practice depends on the specific needs of the disabled worker. In some cases, it could be a special office that is accessible via wheelchair. In other cases, it could be part-time telework that allows an employee to keep contributing despite a medical impairment. 

Limitation: In order to be reasonable, an accommodation must not pose an “undue burden” on an employer. The easier it is for an employer to make a specific accommodation, the more likely it is to be deemed reasonable. 

Six Things to Prove to Bring a Failure to Accommodate Claim in Massachusetts

Employers that are covered by the ADA have a duty to make a good faith effort to accommodate qualified disabled workers. Failure to do so is a form of disability discrimination. To bring a successful disability discrimination claim on the basis of failure to accommodate, an employee in Massachusetts must be able to establish the following six things: 

  1. The employee (or job applicant) has a qualifying disability;
  2. The employee (or job applicant) can perform the essential functions of the position;
  3. The employee needs a reasonable accommodation to perform the job; 
  4. The employer knows or should have known about the worker’s disability status; 
  5. The employer knew that a reasonable accommodation was available or the employer failed to investigate or failed to make a good faith attempt to find an accommodation; and
  6. No effective reasonable accommodation was actually provided by the employer. 

Consult With Our Massachusetts Disability Employment Discrimination Lawyer Today

At Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore, LLC, our Massachusetts disability discrimination attorneys are passionate, justice-driven advocates for employees. If you or your loved one was wrongfully denied a reasonable accommodation by an employer, we can help. Call us at (413) 785-1400 contact our firm through our websiteto set up your private case review. We handle disability discrimination claims throughout Western Massachusetts, including in Hampden County and Hampshire County.