Call The Right Attorney™
No Fee Guarantee

Be Clear And Direct In Requesting ADA Work Accommodations

by | Jun 23, 2023 | Disability Discrimination, Employment Discrimination, Employment Law, Federal Law Update, Wrongful Termination |

About a decade ago, I wrote this blog: Disability Discrimination: ADA Does Not Require Employers To Be Mind Readers. It is always fun to look back and revisit some of our older blogs. The principle that I blogged on those long10 years ago still holds true – employees must effectively notify employers about their disabilities and request an accommodation (except for open and obvious disabilities). Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), employers are not charged with guessing that an employee might have attention-deficit disorder, crone’s disease, or anxiety or initiating accommodations that an employee has never actually asked for.

Recently, in Bright v. Martin, No. 22-30767, 2023 WL 4044437 (5th Cir. June 15, 2023), the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit gave us another example. Carvell Bright worked as a sergeant at the St. James Parish Jail until he was fired on April 21, 2020. Subsequently, on November 27, he filed a complaint, asserting a disability discrimination failure-to-accommodate claim under the ADA. Bright claims to have a disability related to rectal distress resulting from surgeries he underwent over twenty years ago. According to his complaint, on April 16, 2020, he sought permission to leave his post to alleviate his rectal pain before another officer could relieve him. Specifically, Bright contacted his supervisor, Cathlyn McKarry, to inform her of his illness. She advised him to call his co-worker to arrange for relief. However, Bright did not explicitly request to leave his post before the coworker’s arrival. However, he alleges that this request was unlawfully denied and that he was wrongfully fired.

How do I state a disability discrimination claim for a failure-to-accommodate?

To prevail on a failure-to-accommodate claim, an employee must present evidence that (1) he/she/they is a “qualified individual with a disability”; (2) the disability and its consequential limitations were “known” by the employer; and (3) the employer either failed to engage in the interactive process to find an accommodation or failed to make any available reasonable accommodations. An disability accommodation is not reasonable if it would cause the employer an undue hardship. “Plaintiffs ordinarily satisfy the knowledge element by showing that they identified their disabilities as well as the resulting limitations to a public entity or its employees and requested an accommodation in direct and specific terms.” Smith v. Harris Cnty., 956 F.3d 311, 317 (5th Cir. 2020). While it is not always necessary for an employee to use precise wording to request an accommodation, it remains important for the employee to directly communicate their need for a specific accommodation to their employer initially. Simply put, the absence of a specific phrase does not eliminate the employee’s responsibility to clearly articulate their accommodation request to the employer.

When an employee “fails to request an accommodation in this manner, he can prevail only by showing that ‘the disability, resulting limitation, and necessary reasonable accommodation’ were ‘open, obvious, and apparent’ to the entity’s relevant agents.” Id. at 317–18 (quoting Windham v. Harris Cnty., 875 F.3d 229, 237 (5th Cir. 2017)).

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that Bright failed the knowledge requirement:

Based on the record evidence, no reasonable person would believe that Bright’s communications to McKarry contained the specific accommodation that he now alleges he was refused. Bright alleges that he stated to McKarry that he “can’t stay” and had “to go.” But at best, such language suggests merely that he was uncomfortable and that he needed to leave early, not that he needed to leave immediately or prior to his replacement’s arrival. His claim that Martin impermissibly denied such a request cannot succeed when the request was never made.

If you are not sure about whether you have requested an accommodation in enough detail, you should include more detail. There is not harm in providing too much information to support a disability accommodation request under the ADA.

Best ADA Lawyer Blogs on Point:

How do you request a workplace accommodation under the ADA?

Here are some proposed steps to request an accommodation under the ADA in the employment context:

  1. Determine your accommodation needs: Identify the specific accommodation(s) you require to perform essential job functions effectively due to your disability. Consider how the accommodation will enable you to perform your job duties and participate fully in the workplace.
  2. Review your employee handbook or policies: Familiarize yourself with your employer’s policies and procedures regarding accommodation requests. These may outline the specific process for making a request.
  3. Identify the appropriate person or department: Determine the correct individual or department within your organization to contact regarding accommodation requests. This is typically the human resources department, but it may vary depending on your organization’s structure. If you are uncertain of who you need to submit your ADA disability accommodation request to, just ask a manager.
  4. Prepare a written request: It is generally recommended to make your accommodation request in writing to ensure clarity and have a record of the request. Your written request should include the following details:
    • Your name, contact information, and employee ID (if applicable).
    • A clear statement that you are requesting an accommodation under the ADA due to your disability.
    • A description of your disability (unless previously disclosed) and how it impacts your ability to perform essential job functions.
    • The specific accommodation(s) you are requesting to address the limitations caused by your disability.
    • Any supporting documentation, such as medical reports or recommendations from healthcare professionals, if applicable.
  5. Submit your request: Send your written accommodation request to the appropriate person or department as outlined in your organization’s policies. Follow any specific submission procedures or instructions provided by your employer. It is best that you submit the request in a way that can be tracked, such as with a read-receipt email or fax confirmation. If necessary, you can even submit the request by text message.
  6. Engage in the interactive process: Once your request is received, your employer should engage in an interactive process with you. This involves discussing your accommodation needs, exploring potential solutions, and considering reasonable accommodations that would allow you to perform your job effectively.
  7. Provide additional information if necessary: Your employer may request additional information or documentation to better understand your request or evaluate the feasibility of certain accommodations. You may need to provide medical documentation during this process. Cooperate and provide any requested information that is reasonable and necessary to assess your accommodation needs.
  8. Reach a resolution: Work with your employer to reach a resolution regarding your requested accommodation. Together, you should identify a reasonable accommodation that effectively addresses your needs without causing undue hardship for the employer. Keep in mind that the employer has a duty to engage in good faith throughout this process.
  9. Document the accommodation: Once a resolution is reached, make sure to document the agreed-upon accommodation, including any modifications, adjustments, or timelines. Retain copies of all communications related to the accommodation process for future reference.

Best Failure to Accommodate Attorney Blogs on Point:

What should I do if I am confused about how to go about getting an accommodation from my job for my disability?

It’s important to note that the ADA sets forth specific rights and responsibilities for both employees and employers during the accommodation process. If you encounter challenges or believe your rights are being violated, you should seek legal advice. Specifically, you should call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. (Read: What is the Spitz No Fee Guarantee?). Call our top employment lawyers in Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, and Kentucky to get help now. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm and its experienced attorneys are dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving employment disputes.

Best Employee’s Rights Law Firm Blogs on Point:


This employment law website is an advertisement. The disability accommodations for work materials available at the top of this page and at this wrongful termination website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.

"" "