Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



The employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act have been fully effective since July 26, 1994. These provisions require all employers with fifteen or more employees to reasonably accommodate the disabilities of job applicants and employees. Reasonable accommodation can be very expensive: one in every twenty accommodations now being made costs more than $5,000. Although the ADA permits employers to refuse to make accommodations that would cause an "undue hardship," neither the statute nor its implementing regulations provide meaningful guidance regarding how great an accommodation expense must be before the point of "undue hardship" is attained. Consequently, neither employers nor employees can be sure what level of accommodation the ADA requires. This Article argues that for the ADA to achieve its central objective of integrating millions of Americans with disabilities into the labor force, a very precise definition of "undue hardship" must be developed. The Article there- fore constructs a quantitative methodology for making undue hardship determinations; the methodology utilizes a private employer's net working capital, net profit, and the size of its labor force to establish the precise point of undue hardship for any proposed accommodation. This methodology is designed to ensure that private employers maintain the ability to maximize profit, and that lower-paid employees are entitled to reasonable accommodation expendi- tures equal to those of higher-paid employees. By enabling employers and employees to determine their financial obligations and entitlements without resorting to litigation, the proposed methodology would truly facilitate the integration of millions of Americans with disabilities into the workforce.