Minnesota employers have a duty to provide disabled workers with reasonable accommodations that make it possible to perform essential job duties. However, not all requests for accommodations are reasonable, which can put employers in a tricky spot.
Below are some tips for responding respectfully and lawfully to these requests.
Take every request seriously
When an employee makes a request, it is generally a good practice to refrain from denying it right away. Even if you think it’s impossible or completely unnecessary, be sure you take the time to consider it carefully.
During this time, ask yourself the following questions:
- How much will it cost?
- How long would it take to implement?
- How would the accommodation help the employee?
- Would it be disruptive?
Using these questions as the framework for every accommodation request can allow you to take a uniform, fair approach to each one. And your answers to them can help you determine whether a request is unreasonable.
If you decide that a specific request is, in fact, unreasonable, consider alternative solutions that might accomplish a similar goal. Minnesota laws do not require employers to provide the exact type of accommodation an employee requests; they must only provide one that effectively accommodates that person.
For instance, perhaps an employee asks you to eliminate part of his job because he cannot stand for long periods. If this would cause an undue hardship on you or other workers, you could deny the request but offer other reasonable accommodations, like more frequent breaks or the ability to sit instead of stand.
Another solution might be to have the employee contribute to the cost of an accommodation if you have determined that implementing it on your own is too costly.
Respond quickly and clearly
Once you decide to deny or approve a request, communicating your decisions quickly and clearly to the employee is crucial. If you drag your feet or are unclear in your explanations and alternatives, you could create frustration and conflict where it might not have otherwise existed.
These tips can help employers make informed, lawful decisions regarding requests for accommodations in the workplace.