An important court decision recently confirmed that an employer has no duty to offer reasonable accommodations to an employee with a disability until the employee specifically requests an accommodation. That’s true even when the employer is aware of the employee’s disability.

To establish an American with Disabilities Act (ADA) claim, an employee must show that he or she:
1. Has a disability as defined by the ADA,
2. Is qualified, with or without a reasonable accommodation, to perform the functions of his job, and
3. Suffered discrimination because of his disability.

The court found that before an employee can be deemed “not qualified” for his job, the employer must take an effort to accommodate his disability. However, the employee has a duty to request a reasonable accommodation. An employer is not required to offer an accommodation, even though he knows the employee is disabled under the ADA. The court stated that “it is not the employer’s responsibility to anticipate the employee’s needs and affirmatively offer accommodation.”

In making a request for an accommodation, the employee need not utter any magic words, nor must he say that he is request a reasonable accommodation. Furthermore, the request need not be in writing. However, the employee must make clear that he wants assistance for his disability. Also, the employee must be clear that he needs an accommodation for his disability.

PRACTICAL ADVISE: If you think you may need reasonable accommodation for your disability at your workplace, let your employer know as soon as possible.

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