Personal Assistants as a Reasonable Accommodation
Q: Is asking for a personal assistance service a reasonable accommodation in the workplace under the ADA?
A: Under the ADA, private employers are not obligated to provide or pay for personal services or devices to their employees to perform routine job functions. However, an employee who requires personal assistance in the workplace should ask their employer to allow their aide into the workplace as a reasonable accommodation. The employee will have to cover the cost of the aide and work out a schedule with their employer to receive the services at work.
Personal assistants provide some basic non-medical support for individuals with specific types of disabilities. In the work environment services provided might include putting on or removing a coat, assistance with eating, or help using the bathroom. Personal assistance services are understood to be personal in nature and therefore beyond the scope of what a covered employer must offer as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.
There is one potential exception to this limit. Work related travel is understood to be a circumstance when it may be necessary for an employer to provide personal assistance service as a form of reasonable accommodation. Beyond the ADA, federal employers, covered by Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act, are specifically required to consider providing personal assistance services as an accommodation for an employee who has a disability as long as it does not impose an undue hardship.
To read more about personal assistance services as a reasonable accommodation, you can read the Job Accommodation Network’s Personal Assistance in the Workplace.