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How To Determine What Is A Reasonable Accommodation For My Job

What Accommodation Or Accommodations Do You Need?

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To determine what accommodations would work for you, it would help to answer the following questions:

  1. What limitations are you experiencing?
  2. What limitations are you likely to experience in the near future? Your medical team can help answer the question about what to expect as a result of your condition and/or treatment, and how it it is likely to impact your work.
  3. How do your limitations affect your job performance?
  4. What specific tasks that you do are difficult or impossible because of the limitations?
  5. What accommodations could reduce or eliminate the limitation?
  6. What are the details of each possible accommodation?

Keep in mind the question is what accommodation is needed to permit you to do your job -- not what you would prefer in an ideal world. Of course, if you can convince your employer to let you do your job as you prefer on the basis that it will make you more efficient without regard to the Americans With Disabilities Act -- go for it.

Don't worry about whether the accommodation would be an inconvenience to the employer. Every accommodation is an inconvenience to the employer.

If you have a person in the company who acts as your advisor, speak with him or her about potential ideas. If you don't have an advisor, consider seeking one. In addition to discussing your particular situation, your advisor will hopefully know, or can find out, about other accommodations your employer has provided in the past. To learn more, see Work Advisor.

To help think about accommodations that would work for you, and the kind of detail to think about, consider the following examples. If you still have questions, consider speaking with an advisor at work and/or contacting the Job Accommodation Network (JAN): offsite link

Deadline extension: Do you need deadlines extended because while you can do your work, you now work more slowly?

  • If so, extend the deadline from what to what?
  • What will the result be for the employer if you're allowed the extension? For instance, if you work on an assembly line, if you were granted an extension of time, the entire line would be slowed down unless you agreed to work longer hours and could stockpile the part.

A shift in responsibility:

  • For instance, a teacher oversees recess which is an exhausting part of his job. An accommodation would be to shift responsiblity for supervising recess to another teacher while letting him focus on the core job of teaching.
  • If there is a job opening that would be easier for you to do, shifting to the new job could be a reasonable accommodation. Asking an employer to create a new job would not be reasonable. (For example, a firefighter who develops breathing problems, cannot reasonably fight fires. On the other hand, he or she could become a trainer or a dispatcher, or even an exterior fire fighter who does not have to wear a mask.

Job transfer: Would it help to be transferred to a less physically or mentally demanding job?

  • If so, are there any open?
  • Would you need more training or education for any of those jobs? If so, at what expense and how long would it take?

According to the law firm of Fisher & Phillips, LLP, as of 2011, there is a split among the various federal district courts whether an employee who seeks reassignment ot a new position as a reasonable accommodation should have to compete with other people for the job, or whether you should be given preferential treatment and automatically be assigned - even above more qualified applicants. If this question is relevant, find out the law in your area by asking a local disease specific nonprofit organization (including organizations for diseases other than your own) or by contacting a local employment lawyer.

Leave: Would you like unpaid leave, other than leave to which you may be entitled under a law such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

  • If so, is there a trained person who could do your job?
  • If not, how long would it take to train a person, and how much would that cost the employer?

Your work space: If you are having difficulty, perhaps changes can be made which will make it easier to do your job and to make it as comfortable as possible. For example:

  • If it is difficult to bend down to get files, perhaps the file cabinets or drawers can be moved.
  • Move the phone to within easy reach.
  • Ask for special furniture if needed.
  • Switch work spaces if necessary.
  • If you are experiencing diarrhea, ask that your work space be moved to a location which is close to the bathroom.
  • If you have to print documents frequently, ask for a personal printer for your work area.
  • If you are nauseous, ask that your work area be moved away from the cafeteria.

Work from home part time or full time:

  • Do you want to work at home a few hours a day, a few days a week, or all the time?
  • Does it make sense to work at home? For instance, a surgeon cannot work at home.
  • If so, you may need at home: a dedicated telephone line that nobody uses for their own personal use; a desk, a file cabinet, and a computer with an internet connection. 
    • What will be supplied by your employer, and what do you have to supply?
    • Click here for additional considerations about working at home.

Work schedule:

  • Do you need shorter hours on the job? Every day or just a few days a week? For a period of time or indefinitely? Can you make them up by working different hours?
  • Can you work from home - at least part of the day, or one or more days a week? (See the document in "To Learn More" for information about working at home).

Fatigue or Stress that wears you down: If you are experiencing fatigue on an ongoing basis, consider a two hour lunch break so you have time to take a nap and reenergize for the afternoon. You could work an extra half day to make up for the lost time.

Job Share: If your limitation looks as if it will be permanent leaving you able to work, but not full time: is it possible to share your job with someone else who also only wants to work part of the time?

If you need help thinking of additional ideas that could work for you, you can search through a database of accommodations by clicking here offsite link.


  • If you choose an accommodation that involves doing less work, your employer has the right to pay you less. This is not likely to occur with a minor shift in job duties. However, it could occur, for example, if you give up your supervisory responsibilities in order to reduce stress.
  • If you want shorter hours, be aware that there could be a hidden trap. If the reduced hours are accompanied by reduced pay, that is usually rather straight forward and the results are apparent. Less apparent is that reduced hours may also result in a reduced disability benefit if you later leave work on disability, and a reduced payment to your retirement plan.

If the reduction in hours is significant enough, you may even lose your right to health benefits or be forced to pay for it yourself under COBRA. For example, many companies do not give health benefits to part time workers. They usually define "part time" by the number of hours an employee works per week.

To Learn More

More Information

Family Medical Leave Act COBRA

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