Imagine this. You own a McDonald’s franchise. A person, who is otherwise quite qualified, comes in to apply for a job assembling sandwiches. However, he only has one arm. Do you have to hire him?
Maybe. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating against employees, both current and prospective, based on their disabilities. If a person is able to fulfill the essential functions of the position, he cannot be denied due to a disability.
But, as the Big Mac assembly line is presently set up, it requires two hands. Do you have to redesign the line?
Again, that’s a big maybe. The ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations. Of course, what is reasonable is going to depend heavily on the facts, circumstances, and resources of the employer, employee, and the disability. However, if the accommodation is an undue hardship, such as the employee working one hour shifts, the law won’t require it.
For our McHypothetical, it might be as simple as rearranging a few bottles of Big Mac sauce. Such an accommodation would certainly have to be made, at is is barely a burden at all.
Let’s take it one step further. If the one-armed cook is physically unable to stand for more than 15 minutes at a time, there is almost certainly no reasonable accommodation that could help that person to fulfill the essential duties of a McDonald’s burger stacker. And if there was, the extent of such accommodation would probably be an undue burden.
So, as an employer, if such a situation presents itself, you’re going to have to ask yourself: what is the burden to my business?
And for you employees, ask yourself if your needed accommodation would be reasonable from the employer’s point of view. Will the company have to spend thousands of dollars to hire you as a short-order cook?
If you are unsure, talk it over with a lawyer. Most of these cases end up in the grey area, so it’s important to weigh your options with someone experienced in the field of employment and ADA law.
- Consult a Chicago Employment Attorney (FindLaw)
- Telecommuting Guidelines for Reasonable Workplace Accommodations (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law)
- The Employer’s Duty to Accommodate (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law)
- SAD Teacher Wins Appeal of ADA Case, Keeps Judgment (FindLaw’s Chicago Employment Law Blog)