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How to request a reasonable accommodation in Maryland


A disabled woman with reasonable accommodations

Maryland employers must try to accommodate the disabilities of their employees. But at the Employment Law Center of Maryland, we know that the process of requesting accommodations can be confusing. While this blog post should get you started, contact us today for a consultation, and we'll be glad to help you get your accommodation. People with disabilities deserve to fully participate in Maryland workplaces.


What is a reasonable accommodation?


An "accommodation" is a change in either your work environment or the way you do your job. An accommodation lets you to enjoy the same employment opportunities as non-disabled workers.


Examples of accommodations generally do include:

  • making a workplace accessible and usable by individuals with disabilities

  • allowing a part-time or modified work schedule

  • reassigning an employee to a vacant position

  • acquiring assistive devices

  • providing qualified readers or interpreters

  • providing leave

  • allowing the use of guide dogs


Examples of accommodations generally do not include:

  • removing an essential function of your job (in other words, changing your job duties)

  • lowering standards of work quality

  • promoting an individual with a disability


Employers must assess accommodations on a case-by-case basis. As a person with a disability, you can only demand a "reasonable" accommodation.


Keep in mind that there's no hard and fast rule as to what counts as a "reasonable" accommodation. Even if your doctor suggests a particular accommodation, your employer can reject it if it causes "undue hardship." The key considerations are generally (1) cost and (2) time. If your accommodation is expensive or difficult to implement, it may be too much of a burden.


How do I request a reasonable accommodation?


To request a reasonable accommodation at work, you'll need to:


  1. Disclose your disability to your employer;

  2. Engage in the "interactive process" with your employer to identify potential accommodations; and,

  3. As appropriate, recertify your need for accommodations.


Let's start with a simple but often overlooked point—you're the one who starts this process. An employee is responsible for telling their employer if they need an accommodation, according to the U.S. EEOC. That said, you don't need to identify the type of accommodation you need. Just disclose your disability, and ask for accommodations.


Next comes the interactive process. This is a collaborative process, and that means both parties need to act in good faith. You'll likely need to provide additional information about your disability to your employer. Then, your employer will propose what accommodations it is willing to grant.


Lastly, you'll likely need to recertify your need for accommodations in the future. Generally, there are no "permanent" accommodations. This is because both your needs and the business processes of your employer are likely to evolve. That said, if your employer asks to recertify your need for accommodations more than twice a year, it's a warning sign.


Above all, consider working with a Maryland disability lawyer from the start. They'll guide you at each step, and make it much more likely that your employer grants your reasonable accommodation request.


How much do I need to tell my employer about my disability?


Workers often ask how much they should disclose about their disability when requesting a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.


The ADA prohibits employers from asking invasive questions about an employee's disability. However, when requesting a reasonable accommodation, some degree of disclosure is necessary. The crux of the matter lies in understanding the fine line between what is and isn't necessary to share.


The EEOC says employees only need to say they have a disability and need help with it. Employers generally can't require employees to disclose their specific diagnosis or any intimate details about their illness.


Suppose an employee has severe chronic fatigue syndrome. They need to notify their employer that they struggle with an energy-limiting condition. They should also disclose that it affects their ability to work at certain hours. The disclosure doesn't have to mention the exact illness, a long list of symptoms, or other medical information.


However, it's worth noting that employers can ask for limited additional information. This helps establish that the employee has a legal disability and needs the requested accommodation. This could include relevant medical documentation related to the ability to perform the job. It also helps the employer identify an effective accommodation.


Finally, confidentiality is key. When an applicant or employee discloses their disability, the employer must keep the information confidential. They should only share it with supervisors, managers, safety personnel, or government officials as required by law.


Is work from home a reasonable accommodation?


In the past, accommodations changed the physical workplace to help disabled employees. Ramps, special equipment, modified workstations were classic examples of practical changes implemented in a physical workspace. But the definition of the "workplace," especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, has evolved.


The EEOC says working from home can be a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. This is important for disabled employees who struggle to travel or require a specific work environment at home.


However, not all jobs can be performed from home. And an employer doesn't have to remove essential functions of a job as an accommodation. The position's requirements will dictate if home-based work is a feasible solution. If your job requires a great deal of face-to-face interaction, working from home may not be reasonable.


While working from home can be a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, there's no hard and fast rule. Individual circumstances, nature of work, and the barriers to performing essential job functions from home are all relevant factors. In our experience, partial telework is easier to achieve than full telework, but both are possible.


What should I do if my employer denies my reasonable accommodation request?


Dealing with denial of a reasonable accommodation request under the ADA can be a challenging experience for any employee. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s important to understand that you've got options.


  1. Dialogue. Begin by seeking more information from your employer. Articulate your needs clearly and request an explanation for the denial. Effective communication can resolve any potential confusion on your employer's side of the table.

  2. Alternative Accommodations. Your employer might deny your specific request but offer an alternative accommodation that still adequately addresses your needs. If this happens, consider whether this alternative solution could work for you. If it doesn't work for you, tell your employer why their proposed solution won't work, and provide details.

  3. Mediation. Engaging in mediation can sometimes help resolve issues. This involves a neutral third party assisting in a voluntary negotiation between you and your employer.

  4. Complaint. File a charge with the EEOC, which enforces the ADA, if resolving the issue by talking doesn't work. Make sure to file your complaint within 300 days of the denial of your accommodation request. This may also prompt an investigation into your employer's practices.

  5. Legal Action. If your complaint with the EEOC does not fix the problem, you may have no choice but to file a lawsuit. But you can often avoid this by working with a Maryland employment lawyer earlier in the process.


Navigating a denial can feel daunting, but remember, you have rights. The ADA's purpose is to provide fair job opportunities for people with disabilities.


Need help with a reasonable accommodation denial? Contact us at the Employment Law Center of Maryland. We dedicate a large portion of our practice to disability accommodations work, and we're here to help you.

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