Requesting an accommodation before you need to

You can request an accommodation while applying for a job, after receiving a job offer, after acquiring a disability, or when the nature of your disability or job changes. Keep in mind, however, that you are not required to request a reasonable accommodation until after an employer has made a job offer or after you discover that you need an accommodation to perform the job, which may be after you start working.

If you request a reasonable accommodation before a job offer is made it may be difficult to prove whether the employer denied you the job because there was a more qualified applicant or because it did not want to pay for or go to the trouble of providing accommodations. Not hiring you because you need a reasonable accommodation would be discriminatory. You may want to consider waiting to get the job offer before requesting an accommodation.

Disclosing more than you are required to disclose

If you decide to voluntarily disclose your disability to your employer, the amount of information and detail you give your employer about your disability is entirely up to you. When your employer has a legitimate need to know about your disability, it is acceptable to provide only what information is necessary to address the performing of essential job functions.

For example, an employer may have a legitimate need to know more about your disability when you ask for a reasonable accommodation. Or your employer may have questions about whether there has been a change in your disabling condition if you stop performing your job safely after having a good safety record. There is no need, in an interview or while employed, to volunteer information beyond what is necessary to facilitate your employer’s legitimate disability-related questions and any reasonable accommodations you ask for.

Not requesting an accommodation you need

You should request a reasonable accommodation when there is a barrier that prevents or makes it difficult for you to participate in the hiring process, perform your job, meet a job standard, or access other benefits of employment.

It is your right to choose whether to voluntarily disclose your disability during the hiring process and during employment. However, if you choose not to disclose your disability at the time you determine that you need an accommodation, and you are unable to perform the essential functions of your job, your employer can take disciplinary action, or fire you if you can’t otherwise do your job. If that happens, you cannot claim that the employer discriminated against you because you have a disability.

Not documenting your accommodation request

Even if your employer has no official steps in place for employees to request accommodations, you should still keep a written record of your accommodation request. For example, you can request your accommodations by email and, if there is any verbal communication about your accommodation, you should verify the conversation afterwards by email and ask your employer to let you know in writing if they have a different understanding of the conversation. This creates a written archive that can be useful at a later time, especially if there is a misunderstanding or your employer does not want to provide a necessary accommodation.