An employer defense to a request for accommodation — undue hardship
However, there are instances where an employer can refuse an employee’s request for a reasonable accommodation. The employer can claim “undue hardship.”
“Undue hardship means significant difficulty or expense and focuses on the resources and circumstances of the particular employer concerning the cost or difficulty of providing a specific accommodation,” according to guidance from the EEOC.
Undue hardship refers “not only to financial difficulty, but to reasonable accommodations that are unduly extensive, substantial, or disruptive, or those that would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business,” the EEOC said.
For example, in Anderson v. Harrison County, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit decided for the employer on the employee’s ADA failure to accommodate the claim.
The plaintiff, a correctional officer, asked for an eight-hour work shift to accommodate anxiety and depression. This was after restructuring work schedules from an eight-hour to a 12-hour workday. The employer testified that the plaintiff’s request was not workable due to staffing and budget shortfalls.
The appeals court note that although a reasonable accommodation may include part-time or modified work schedules, the ADA does not require an accommodation that would result in other employees having to work harder or longer.
Assessment of whether a reasonable accommodation would cause undue hardship is on a case-by-case basis.