Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2016

Publication Source

George Mason Law Review


There is “a dearth of precedent” outlining the scope of the Americans with Disabilities Act’s reasonable accommodations provision. The “little precedent” available “remains severely underdeveloped,” “in a state of chaos,” and leaves “many issues unresolved.” Circuit splits abound. For example, courts widely differ in their perspectives about whether the ADA requires employers to permit employees with disabilities to work from home. Similarly, in circumstances in which an employee with a disability can no longer do his or her current job, courts differ on the question of whether the ADA requires the employer to prefer the employee with a disability for vacant positions within the employer’s organization.

These and other questions about the scope of the ADA’s reasonable accommodations provision remain unresolved because the first two decades of judicial opinions construing the ADA did not focus on defining the reasonable accommodations provision. Instead, courts concluded that the vast majority of ADA plaintiffs were not “disabled enough” to bring ADA claims. Commentators labeled this phenomenon the “ADA backlash” and speculated that it was fueled by judicial discomfort with the obligations that the ADA’s reasonable accommodations provision placed on employers. Today, the ADA Amendments Act of 2008’s dramatic expansion of the ADA’s protected class requires courts to directly confront the many unresolved questions about the breadth of the ADA’s reasonable accommodations provision. In virtually all cases, courts can no longer avoid delineating the scope of an employer’s accommodations obligation by concluding that the plaintiff is ineligible to bring a reasonable accommodations claim.

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George Mason Law Review


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