How to ask for a workplace accommodation

By Molly Touger

Expert reviewed by James Emmett, MS

Updated March 10, 2023

If you’re struggling at work and need an accommodation, you may be nervous about asking. You may worry that your boss will say no, or be concerned about the reaction if you decide to say you have a disability.

Knowing your rights can help you feel more confident in making the request. Federal law requires companies with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities who need them. State laws often protect employees at smaller companies too. And employers must keep any information you share about a disability confidential.

It also helps to ask yourself some important questions before you start the conversation, like who are you comfortable talking to.

Follow these six steps to help make the process of asking for a workplace accommodation go more smoothly. (You can also scroll down for a one-page printable version of these steps.)

1. Brainstorm. 

Think about what you’re struggling with the most at work. If possible, try to identify changes that would help you with specific tasks or situations. 

2. Decide what details to share.

It’s up to you whether to share or “disclose” that you have a disability. For simple requests, you may not need to. But at some companies, you may need to disclose a disability in order to request any type of accommodation. If you share that you have a disability, your employer must keep this information confidential.

3. Decide when to ask.

You can ask for an accommodation at any time during the hiring process or on the job. It’s best to be proactive. Ask before a challenge affects your work.

4. Start the conversation.

Talk with your manager or someone in Human Resources. This will start an “interactive process” that is required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This part of the law says the employer must work with you to look for a solution.

5. Follow the company’s process.

Different companies have different processes for requesting an accommodation. You may need to fill out forms and/or submit medical documentation. 

6. Keep records. 

Save any emails or copies of forms that you fill out so you can follow up if you have to. For example, these records can help if you need to go back through the process to get a different accommodation. 

The first accommodation you try may work well. But it’s not unusual if you need to go through the process again to try something else.

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This resource is intended solely for informational purposes and is not a substitute for legal advice.

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