Does my Employer have to Accommodate my Disability?

Erin Medeiros

Disability discrimination occurs when an employer treats an applicant or employee less favorably because she/he has a disability. The Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA) prohibits disability discrimination by all employers while the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act (ADAAA) applies to employers with 15 or more employees. Both laws protect individuals with conditions that “substantially limit” a major life activity or bodily function if the individual can perform the essential functions of their job (or the job they seek) with or without accommodation. Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodation in most instances, but disabled employees must usually ask for accommodation.

The WFEA and ADAAA are interpreted broadly, in favor of finding a disability where a person has a condition that affects “major life activities” such as seeing, hearing, walking, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, concentrating, thinking, and working. Many disorders of the immune, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions—like cancer, HIV, or diabetes—are protected disabilities. This list is not all-inclusive. Minor impairments, like poor vision that is easily corrected by ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses, are not covered.

A reasonable accommodation is a change in the work environment, manner of work, and/or circumstances of work that allows the employee to perform her/his job.  Reasonable accommodations may include a flexible work schedule, breaks, modified assignments, or measures to make the workplace more accessible, depending on the condition being accommodated. Employers may not refuse to provide accommodations unless a reasonable accommodation would cause the employer significant difficulty or expense. The accommodation provided must only be reasonable, it does not have to be the exact accommodation requested.

If you have an impairment that prevents you from performing a major life activity, your employer may be required to accommodate you at work.  For additional information about the ADAAA please contact us at (414) 240-1185.