Common Questions about Requesting an Accommodation

How long does an employer have to respond to an accommodation request?

There is no specific amount of time that employers have to respond to a reasonable accommodation request, but they should respond as quickly as possible. Unnecessary delays to respond to or carry out an accommodation request can be against the law.

Once the employers respond, they should also carry out the accommodation request promptly. Even when you and your employer need to talk about possible options for accommodation, the discussions should take place as soon as possible.

Examples
  • An employer offers parking to all employees. An employee who uses a wheelchair requests from his supervisor an accessible parking space, explaining that the spaces are so narrow that there is not enough room for his van to extend the ramp that allows him to get in and out of his vehicle. The supervisor does not act on the request and does not forward it to someone with authority to respond. The employee makes a second request to the supervisor. Still, 2 months after the initial request, nothing has been done. Although the supervisor never definitively denies the request, the lack of action under these circumstances amounts to a denial, and thus violates the ADA.
  • An employee who is blind requests adaptive equipment for her computer as a reasonable accommodation. The employer orders this equipment and is informed that it will take 3 months before it will be delivered. No other company sells the adaptive equipment the employee needs. The employer tells the employee that someone has worked on the accommodation request and ordered the equipment. Although it will take 3 months to get the equipment, the employer has moved as quickly as possible to get it. Thus, there is no ADA violation resulting from the delay. The employer and employee should figure out what can be done so that the employee can perform her job as effectively as possible while waiting for the equipment to arrive. The employer should not discipline or fire the employee because she could not perform functions without the accommodation.

What if my employer says no to an accommodation?

If your employer refuses your accommodation request, ask for a written denial with an explanation of the reason. This way, you can figure out what to do next. For example, if your employer refused your request because your medical information did not show that you have a disability, you can give your employer additional information. Or, if your employer decided that the accommodation you requested would pose an undue hardship, you could suggest other options or ask to your employer if they have a different accommodation they believe could work. If you or your employer does not come up with another accommodation idea, you can request that you and your employer consult with someone knowledgeable about accommodations, such as the Job Accommodation Network.

If you think that your employer has no valid reason to refuse your request or your employer will not tell you why the request was refused, you can appeal the decision to someone higher up at your workplace, file a grievance with your union, if you have one, or file a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR).

Keep in mind that you are not required to appeal the refusal to someone higher up in the company before you file an employment discrimination charge. But if you do choose to take these steps, you must file your discrimination charge within the deadline for the EEOC and the MCHR, even if those steps have not been completed. The deadlines for filing with the EEOC or the MCHR do not stop while you are following the company procedures. You must file your complaint within 300 days of the date the discrimination took place if you file with the EEOC or within 180 days if you file with the MCHR.

What if I need another accommodation in the future?

You can ask for accommodations multiple times and for multiple reasons. It is against the law for the employer to reject a request simply because you have previously asked for an accommodation, as the situation may have changed. Reasons for denying a prior accommodation request may no longer apply. For example, your condition may have become less or more disabling, your job duties may have changed, the employer’s operations may have become more profitable, or other accommodations may have become available that were not available in the past.

Some people only need a single reasonable accommodation, while others may need several. Still others may need a specific reasonable accommodation for a period of time, and then, at a later date, require another type of accommodation. An employer must consider each request for a reasonable accommodation on a case-by-case basis.

Can my employer retaliate against me for asking for an accommodation?

It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against you (get back at you) for asserting your rights under the ADA. If your employer retaliates against you for requesting an accommodation, you may report the retaliation to someone higher up in the company or contact the EEOC or the MCHR.

Keep in mind that you are not required to report the retaliation to higher management before you file a retaliation charge. If you choose to do so, you must file your discrimination charge within 300 days if you file with the EEOC or within 180 days if you file with the MCHR.

What can I do if I think I am being discriminated against?

If you think you have been discriminated against (treated unfairly or unequally) at work because you have a disability, were denied a reasonable accommodation that you requested, or were retaliated against for asking for your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you should contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR) as soon as possible.

Under the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA), a charge of disability discrimination in employment must be filed within 180 days of the date of discrimination. Under the ADA, a charge of discrimination generally must be filed within 300 days of the date you were discriminated against. If you do not file within these deadlines, you could lose the right to file a discrimination charge or lawsuit under the ADA or the MHRA. If you have missed the Missouri 180-day deadline, you should still contact the EEOC because of the longer 300-day deadline that applies to the ADA.

If, after finishing its investigation, the EEOC decides that you have been discriminated against, the EEOC will attempt to get your employer to voluntarily comply with the ADA and supply you with solutions to address the discrimination you faced. For example, the EEOC can ask an employer to supply back pay, rehire you, give you a promotion, supply a reasonable accommodation, pay emotional distress damages, or pay your legal expenses related to the discrimination.

If an employer refuses to agree to supply this relief, the EEOC may bring a lawsuit on your behalf. If the EEOC does not choose to sue, you will have the right to bring your own lawsuit under the ADA.