ADA and FMLA compared: When can employers claim undue hardship?

Increase your organizational efficiency, and compliance with ADA and FMLA awareness. Although the policies overlap in areas making compliance confusing at times, “undue hardship” is one component that is clear.  BLR defines the distinction between the two policies.



The term “undue hardship” refers to unreasonable or excessive expense or inconvenience that would be necessary on the part of an employer to accommodate an employee. Undue hardship is an exception to the employer’s obligation to provide reasonable accommodation.

Quick multiple choice quiz! An undue hardship exception is available under:
  1. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  2. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  3. Both laws
  4. Neither law

If you picked 2) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you’re correct!

Accommodation is not required under the ADA when it would create an “undue hardship” for the employer. ADA defines an “undue hardship” as an accommodation that would be unduly costly, extensive, substantial, disruptive, or fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business. Among the factors to be considered in determining whether an accommodation is an undue hardship are the cost of the accommodation, the employer’s size, financial resources, and the nature and structure of its operation .

Fear/prejudice not a hardship. An employer cannot claim undue hardship based on employees’ (or customers’) fears or prejudices toward an individual’s disability. In addition, undue hardship cannot be based on the fact that a reasonable accommodation might have a negative impact on the morale of other employees. However, employers may be able to show undue hardship where an accommodation would be unduly disruptive to other employees’ ability to work .

The FMLA contains no provision for undue hardship.



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