The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) generally requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified applicant or employee with a disability – unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship.  42 U.S.C. § 12112.

“Undue hardship” is defined as “significant difficulty or expense incurred by a covered entity” with respect to the provision of an accommodation.  In order to determine whether a proposed accommodation imposes an undue hardship on an employer, the following factors must be considered:

  1. The nature and net cost of the accommodation, taking into consideration the availability of tax credits and deductions, or outside funding;
  2. The overall financial resources of the facility or facilities involved in the provision of the reasonable accommodation, the number of persons employed at such facility, and the effect on expenses and resources;
  3. The overall financial resources of the covered entity, the overall size of the business of the covered entity with respect to the number of its employees, and the number, type, and location of its facilities;
  4. The type of operation or operations of the covered entity, including the composition, structure, and functions of the workforce, and the geographic separateness and administrative or fiscal relationship of the facility or facilities in question to the covered entity; and
  5. The impact of the accommodation upon the operation of the facility, including the impact on the ability of other employees to perform their duties and the impact on the facility’s ability to conduct businesst business.

29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(p).

Takeaways:  What constitutes an undue hardship for a particular employer or employee may not constitute an undue hardship for another employer or employee.  The best practice is for employers to consider each request for accommodation on an individualized, case-by-case basis.