No matter what type of company you own, there are essential functions that pertain to each job within the company. These are normally described as the job duties or responsibilities. But what happens when your employees are unable, or even unwilling, to perform a function of the job that you feel is reasonable, based on the fact that it violates your moral or religious beliefs? Can your employees ask you to make reasonable accommodations pertaining to that job duty? What if accommodations are offered to some, but not offered to all? Depending on your situation, you could need an employer attorney.
What Are Reasonable Accommodations?
Reasonable accommodations are changes that occur in the workplace, or to the job duties that would entitle your employees to be able to better perform the duties of their job. While this terminology has been established through the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers have to be mindful of other employees who do not have a disability, but who may also benefit from the same type of accommodation. Some examples of these may include:
- Job restructuring
- Modifying work schedules
- Modifying equipment
- Adjusting training materials
- Adjusting processes or procedures and more
Generally, as an employer, you are not required to provide en employee with an accommodation if they do not ask for one and it provides an undue hardship to the company. This could be defined in terms of financial resources, the nature and structure of the job, and could also be based on the size and location of the job. Your employees also cannot ask you, as their employer for an accommodation that would lower the standards of the quality of work they are expected to perform.
When Are Reasonable Accommodations Unfair?
What happens when you offer accommodations to some employees but they are not extended to others? It can create an environment that is the perfect breeding ground for a labor and employment class action suit and you may find your employer attorney having to wage a labor and employment class action defense.
An example can be found in EEOC v. CONSOL Energy, Inc., No. 16-1230 (4th Cir. June 12, 2017). While this suit was filed as a religious discrimination lawsuit, it could have been fully avoided had the employer been willing to simply offer the employee the same accommodation that was already being offered to several employees who had disabilities based on their hand injuries.
The next time an employee, or a group of employees ask you to consider an accommodation that is already being extended to others, you need to consult your employer attorney to see what your legal requirements may be. If you don't, you may be positioning yourself to having to defend a class action lawsuit.