Common Questions

How long does an employer have to respond?

There is no specific amount of time that employers have to respond to a reasonable accommodation request, but they should respond as quickly as possible. Unnecessary delays to respond to or carry out an accommodation request can result in a violation of the ADA.

Once employers respond, they should also arrange for the accommodation promptly. When you and your employer need to talk about possible options for an accommodation, the discussions should take place as soon as possible.

Examples
  • An employer offers parking to all employees. An employee who uses a wheelchair requests from his supervisor an accessible parking space, explaining that the spaces are so narrow that there is not enough room for his van to extend the ramp that allows him to get in and out of his vehicle. The supervisor does not act on the request and does not forward it to someone with authority to respond. The employee makes a second request to the supervisor. Two months after the initial request, nothing has been done. Although the supervisor never definitively denies the request, the lack of action under these circumstances amounts to a denial and thus violates the ADA.
  • An employee who is blind requests adaptive equipment for her computer as a reasonable accommodation. The employer must order this equipment and is informed that it will take 3 months before it will be delivered. No other company sells the adaptive equipment the employee needs. The employer tells the employee that someone worked on the accommodation request and has ordered the equipment . Although it will take 3 months to get the equipment, the employer has moved as quickly as possible to get the equipment. Thus, there is no ADA violation resulting from the delay. The employer and employee should figure out what can be done so that the employee can perform her job as effectively as possible while waiting for the equipment to arrive.

What if your employer says no?

If your employer refuses your accommodation request, try to find out why so that you can figure out what to do next. For example, if your employer refuses your request because your medical information did not show that you have a disability, you can give your employer additional information. Or, if your employer decided that the accommodation you requested would create an undue hardship, you may want to suggest other options.

If you think that your employer has no valid reason to refuse your request, or your employer will not tell you why the request was refused, you can appeal the decision to someone higher up at your workplace, file a grievance with your union (if you have one), or file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR). For more information about how to file a complaint, see DB101’s article Know Your Rights and Responsibilities.

What if you need another accommodation in the future?

Your employer has an ongoing duty to offer you reasonable accommodations. You can ask for accommodations multiple times and for multiple reasons. It is illegal to reject a request simply because you have asked for an accommodation before.

Some people only need one reasonable accommodation, while others may need more than one. Still others may need one reasonable accommodation for a period of time, and then, at a later date, require another type of reasonable accommodation. An employer must consider each request for a reasonable accommodation on a case-by-case basis.

Can your employer retaliate against you for asking for an accommodation?

It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against (get back at) you for asserting your rights under the ADA. If your employer retaliates against you for requesting an accommodation, you should report the retaliation to someone higher up in the company or agency or contact the EEOC or MDHR immediately. More information about contacting them is included in DB101's article Know Your Rights and Responsibilities.

What can you do if you think you are being discriminated against?

If you think you have been discriminated against (treated unfairly or unequally) at work because you have a disability or because you asked for or need an accommodation, you should contact the EEOC or MDHR as soon as possible. A charge of discrimination generally must be filed within 300 days (or 10 months) of the date you were discriminated against, and it can take several months for the EEOC or MDHR to conduct the initial investigation and prepare the charges.

If the EEOC or MDHR decides that you have been discriminated against, you have the right to get to a solution that will place you in the position you would have been in if the discrimination had never occurred. You may also have the right to be hired, promoted, or reinstated, to get back pay, or to get a reasonable accommodation, including being moved to a different position, and possibly to have your legal expenses paid for.

To learn more about how to file a complaint or lawsuit, see DB101's article Know Your Rights and Responsibilities.