Date: April 20, 2023

TELG's Anita Mazumdar Chambers spoke with BioSpace about the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and gave tips for employees who want to request reasonable accommodations. Ms. Chamber' recommendations included documenting the request in writing and discussing limitations with a physician beforehand.

"I think it's important to emphasize that [the employee] can still do the essential job duties with an accommodation."

Anita Mazumdar Chambers

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Understanding Your Rights: A Guide to Requesting Disability Accommodations at Work

For employees with a medical condition that makes it difficult to perform aspects of their job, it may be time to talk with their employer about whether their role can be modified in some way — what’s known as a reasonable accommodation for a disability.

There’s no time limit on requesting such accommodations, Kevin Abbott, a lawyer at Fennemore Law in California who defends employers in employment and labor-related disputes, told BioSpace.

And for private sector employers with 15 or more workers, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits retaliating against employees who request accommodations for a disability by, for example, firing or demoting them. Federal employees have similar protections, but under a separate law, the Rehabilitation Act.

What Qualifies as a Disability?

Under the ADA, there is “’an expansive view as to what is a disability,” including not only physical but also mental conditions such as anxiety, depression and PTSD, Anita Mazumdar Chambers, a principal at The Employment Law Group in Washington, D.C., told BioSpace.

Symptoms such as back pain may also qualify, particularly if a medical provider can tie it to a pre-existing condition, injury, surgery or diagnosis, she said.

Prior to requesting accommodation, Chambers recommended touching base with the human resources department to learn about the company’s process for doing so.

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