Keynote Address

The Americans with Disabilities Act: Understanding the Legal and Policy Framework Behind Reasonable Accommodations

Sharon Rennert

The Keynote Address will focus on the legal requirement that employers provide workplace accommodations to individuals with disabilities. The ADA's reasonable accommodation requirement is the cornerstone of the ADA's employment discrimination provision. By recognizing that many people with disabilities cannot compete and perform jobs without some changes to the workplace or the job, this requirement levels the playing field and truly provides equal employment opportunities to people with disabilities. But, this concept remains one of the most misunderstood provisions of the ADA, both by employers and persons with disabilities. This address will discuss the continuing misunderstanding about the role of reasonable accommodation and clarify what it does and does not offer to both individuals with disabilities and employers. This address will focus on key questions: Who is an "individual with a disability" and what accommodations must employers provide? How does the issue of accommodation arise in the workplace? How many accommodations must an employer provide? How does the employer choose between two or more accommodations? What are the concerns that employers and individuals with disabilities have regarding requesting and providing accommodation? What obligations are placed on employers and individuals with disabilities? This address will explore obstacles to successful provision of accommodations and ways to improve communication between individuals and employers on this key ADA requirement.

is the senior member of the EEOCís ADA Division, having joined the Division in January 1992. During 2003, she served as Acting Director of the Division. Ms. Rennert develops the Commissionís policy interpretations of the ADA, and has worked on every ADA policy guidance issued by the Commission. She also has worked on many of the Commissionís ADA technical assistance documents, including drafting fact sheets on telework as a reasonable accommodation and the ADAís application to job seekers. Ms. Rennert was the key drafter of the EEOCís guidance on reasonable accommodation and offers particular expertise on this central requirement of the ADA. She also specializes in providing employers with practical approaches to ADA compliance. Ms. Rennert regularly consults with EEOC investigators and attorneys on ADA charges and litigation. In addition, she works with EEOC federal sector attorneys on Rehabilitation Act appeals. Ms. Rennert has written and delivered several ADA training programs for EEOC staff, in addition to conducting numerous seminars and workshops for attorneys, human resources professionals, federal personnel, risk management personnel, and persons with disabilities. In 2004, Ms. Rennert received the Chairís Opportunity to Reward Excellence (CORE) Award for her contributions to the training program established for the EEOCís new National Contact Center.

Ms. Rennert received her law degree, with honors, from New York University School of Law, where she was a member of the Order of the Coif. She also received an award for outstanding student law review article for ďAll Aboard: Accessible Public Transportation for Disabled Persons.Ē Ms. Rennert received her B.A. degree, with highest honors, from the University of California/Berkeley.

Presentation abstract from the 'Workplace Accommodations: State of the Science' conference
September 15-16, 2005, Altanta, GA