Under certain circumstances, an employer must make reasonable accommodations (relaxing certain requirements of the job) to address an employee’s disability, and an employee may file a lawsuit if those accommodations are not made; however, this law has several burdensome requirements. For example, the employee must have a condition that qualifies as a disability under the law (often a tricky question), the employer must know about the disability, the employee must ask for specific accommodation he or she wants, the accommodation must be reasonable for that particular employer, the employee must be able to perform each and every essential function of the job if given the accommodation, and the employer must refuse to provide the reasonable accommodation. What qualifies as a “reasonable” accommodation depends on such factors as the company’s size and its financial resources, and the cost and inconvenience of making the accommodation requested. What is reasonable for a huge corporation is often different from what is reasonable for a small “mom and pop” business.
An employee can also bring a legal action where the employer “regards” or “perceives” the employee as disabled, even if the employee is not actually disabled. Such cases tend to arise with illnesses that carry a social stigma, such as cancer, heart disease, epilepsy, hepatitis, and the HIV virus. The employer can be legally liable for damages where it takes action based on that false perception, such as where an employer refuses to provide training to someone who had a heart attack out of a fear that the training would be wasted if another heart attack proves fatal, or where an employer fires someone who it discovers is HIV-positive out of fear of infection through casual contact.