Published Date: 06/09/2014
By Pat Rountree
Are we required to provide a personal assistant on the job as a reasonable accommodation for an employee with a disability?
It depends. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to consider reasonable accommodations that will enable an employee to perform the essential functions of their job unless it is an undue hardship. That may include a workplace assistant to help the person with their job tasks. Employers are not required by the ADA to provide assistants for personal care needs such as assisting employees with preparing food or feeding, or with restroom assistance except where an employee is required to travel as a part of the job and needs a personal assistant.
Many of you probably provide workplace assistants, although you may not have considered that term. Employees who have injuries or disabilities and have temporarily-restricted duty may have some of their duties absorbed by other employees; examples are lifting heavy materials or duties requiring climbing steps.
However, employers should evaluate accommodation requests where they may involve a non-employee workplace assistant. Examples are a job coach after a disability to help the employee overcome limitations and adjust to new ways to accomplish tasks, or drivers where the employee’s job requires travel within the day if the employee is unable to drive. The cost of a workplace assistant should be included in the decision of reasonable accommodation. If it is determined that it is an undue hardship, an accommodation may be to allow the employee to pay the cost of their assistant.
For more information on workplace assistants and examples of their use in workplace situations, go to http://j.mp/wpa-a. If you have questions about reasonable accommodations, please contact a member of CAI's Advice & Resolution Team at 919‑878‑9222 or 336‑668‑7746.