The Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") requires employers to provide accomodations to employees with disabilities so that they are able to perform the essential functions of the job. However, to what extent can employers experiment with such accommodations?
A few weeks ago, in Rittelmeyer v. Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the North Carolina Court of Appeals decided that employers are not continuously required to provide accommodations that the employee prefers but instead, accommodations based on the reasonable efforts of the employer. In this case, the employee suffering from an extreme sensibility to light sued her employer for failure to provide reasonable accomodations, ensuing her termination due to not returning to work after several weeks of unpaid leave. The employee's main argument was that the implemented accomodations, among which turning off all overhead lights in the office, were not effective in accommodating her disability. However, the court decided that effectiveness was not a requirement to fulfill the standard of providing reasonable accomodations due to the undue hardship it causes on the workplace. In Rittelmeyer, the undue hardship was caused by requiring all of the employee's coworkers to work without overhead lights.
Therefore, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for their ADA employees as long as it does not create an undue hardship within the work environment.