Figuring out how to ask for a job modification can be tricky, even when you are entitled to one thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or a similar state law. The reality is most managers were never trained to be managers, so while the ADA doesn’t require you to request a reasonable accommodation in a particular way, it can be helpful for you to be clear and specifically use the words “reasonable accommodation,” so your supervisor knows that is what you are asking for. The Cancer and Careers Manager’s Kit can be a useful tool as part of this conversation. Also be sure to check out the sessions on Communicating Effectively in our Balancing Work & Cancer Webinar Series for additional approaches to having tough conversations.
Also keep in mind that reasonable accommodations can be helpful whether you’re working through treatment, going back to work after taking time off or still experiencing side effects post-treatment.
Once you have asked your employer for a reasonable accommodation, you are supposed to work together to determine what the accommodations are and whether they are working once they are in place. After you’ve agreed to a plan it can be beneficial to put it in writing. It is also important to remember that you might need more than one accommodation to address the challenges you are having, and/or that you might need to change accommodations over time depending on how your treatment and side effects are impacting you. Keep in mind you are not limited to only asking for one accommodation if more are needed.
Finally, even if your employer isn’t required to provide an accommodation, it doesn’t mean it isn't worth discussing relevant modifications that would better enable you to work through treatment. Often what you will need will be fairly small and inexpensive, so it’s in your employer’s interest to work with you and retain a valuable employee.
We’ve pulled together this list of questions that may help you identify possible modifications:
Is it reasonable in your job to:
- Work the same number of hours every week, but at different times (e.g., instead of 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, work 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM)?
- Request more-frequent breaks?
- Do some or all of your work from home?
- Rearrange your work space so equipment (e.g., printer, telephone) is easily reachable, thereby reducing unnecessary energy spend?
- Move to a different work station (e.g., closer to the restroom or farther away from the cafeteria, to avoid food smells that make you nauseated)?
- Ask for special furniture (e.g., a movie theater ticket-taker who is given a chair to sit in while working)?
- Ask for special equipment (e.g., an anti-glare screen for your computer or a cooling vest to help balance heat sensitivity)?
- Reassign job responsibilities (e.g., a teacher has recess duty covered by coworkers so he can rest)?
- Ask if an exception can be made to a policy (e.g., being allowed to use headphones at your work station to help reduce distractions)?
- Change to working an open role that you are qualified for?
- Work in a different location (e.g., moving to a different restaurant within the same chain that is closer to home)?
For more information on requesting reasonable accommodations, visit the Job Accommodation Network (www.askjan.org).