The Laws of Disability Accommodations for Lawyers: What are your rights in the workplace?
A disability can affect anyone – and lawyers are no exceptions. Recently, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) issued a helpful fact sheet that addresses frequently asked questions about practicing lawyers and disability accommodations at work. So, what do you need to know?
Understanding What a “Reasonable Accommodation” Can Include
First, it is important to know that lawyers with disabilities may be eligible for reasonable accommodations at work – just like any other employee in the workforce. A reasonable accommodation any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enable an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities. While the term “reasonable accommodations” might sound vast, there are actually three categories of reasonable accommodations that are typically available. These include:
- Modifications to the job application process;
- Modifications to the work environment or to the position (such as modifications to the job being performed); and
- Modifications that can enable an employee to enjoy employment benefits (such as trainings sponsored by the employer or social events sponsored by the employer).
Reasonable accommodations are required under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), but not all disabilities require a multitude of accommodations. To be sure, most disability accommodations for lawyers are determined on a case-by-case basis, with the understanding that a set of accommodations is not necessarily tailored to the needs of a specific employee.
Inclusivity in the Legal Profession
It is important for employers to understand that not all lawyers with disabilities will request reasonable accommodations. To be sure, we need to ensure that lawyers with disabilities have access to the profession in the same way that potential employees without disabilities currently have access to the profession. While some employers in the legal profession might make assumptions about persons with disabilities—including that they currently have equal access to the profession—anecdotal evidence suggests that lawyers with disabilities face many of the same barriers to employment that people with disabilities face in other jobs.
One assumption that employers can make about lawyers with disabilities is that reasonable accommodations will be too costly or difficult to provide. In actuality, many lawyers, as we mentioned, never request reasonable accommodations, and when they do, they often can be provided at little or no cost.
Examples of Reasonable Accommodations
A lawyer with a disability defined as such under the ADA can make a request for reasonable accommodations at any point in the job process—during the application process or after being officially hired. The employee will then discuss the type of accommodation that is needed with the employer. Examples of reasonable accommodations in the legal profession can include but are not limited to:
- Installing a ramp;
- Widening a doorway;
- Mechanized door opener;
- Providing a part-time or modified work schedule;
- Allowing for unpaid leave;
- Acquiring (or modifying) equipment;
- Modifying policies in the workplace;
- Screen reader for a computer;
- Providing alternative formats for tests (such as audio materials or Braille materials);
- Providing a qualified reader or a sign language interpreter;
- Allowing the employee to conduct telework; and
- Modifying the methods of employee supervision.
Contact an Employment Discrimination Lawyer in Florida
If you have questions about requesting a disability accommodation, or if you believe you were discriminated against due to a disability, an experienced Florida employment discrimination lawyer can assist you. Contact Scott • Wagner and Associates for more information about how we can help with your case.