The “duty to accommodate” refers to the obligation of an employer (or service provider or union) to take steps to eliminate any workplace rules, practices, or physical barriers that may have an adverse impact on, or cause disadvantage to, employees, prospective employees or clients.
Employees do not need to disclose their diagnosis to receive a workplace accommodation, but they must disclose what their workplace limitations are (and some employers might ask for a doctor’s note to support the accommodation request). Limitations might include:
- Frequent trips to the bathroom;
- Periods of illness and wellness;
- Sickness at certain times of the day due to the side-effects of medication; and
- Difficulty sitting/standing for long periods of time.
Types of accommodations might include:
- A workstation close to a bathroom;
- Flexible work hours;
- Additional time for doctor’s appointments;
- Work from home; and
- Supportive technologies, such as a special monitor or a wrist pad.
Be prepared to discuss and negotiate with your employer what types of accommodations will help you more effectively do your work. When the accommodation is made, keep your employer informed on how things are going. If additional changes are needed, speak to your employer early.
Q - Won’t requesting accommodation hurt my career?
A - Employers have a duty to accommodate employees with episodic disabilities in the workplace.
The process of requesting an accommodation can open up your relationship with your employer or it can reduce the quality of the relationship. Go to your employer with suggestions and ideas on which accommodations will help you do your job better and let your employer know that your job is important to you. Requesting a workplace accommodation is a process and may take time. Be willing to work with your employer to make the accommodation happen during this process. Be aware that initial work place accommodation plans may need to change as you start back to work. Ensure there are regular meetings scheduled to assess progress and adjust plans.
Some employers require a note from a doctor to accompany a request for workplace accommodation. When you request a note from your doctor, bring a copy of your job description and ask your doctor to outline what limitations you have on your work tasks and how long these limitations are expected to last.