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What do I need to know before requesting accommodations at work for disability? What if I have to apply for disability?

Carlsbad, CA |

I have a few serious medical issues. It is increasingly difficult to maintain consistent work attendance and timeliness. I am trying to negotiate accommodations with my employer, but in the back of my mind I have a lot of questions about the possibility that in the future I may have to go on disability. I do not want to go on disability, I am a single parent, and I prefer to work. I have put many years into building my career. The reality is that I am now finding it difficult to find an employer who is truly willing to accommodate my health needs, and my health is not helped by the increased stress of maintaining employment while feeling like my boss would rather let me go than deal with accommodating. What are my options? I have 20 yrs. exp as a software engineer.

My doctor just placed me on STD, and when I alerted my employer, they accepted my STD request as a 'resignation'. I certainly didn't resign. I don't qualify for FMLA, haven't been with the employer for a year. I'm now on STD, but what do I do?

Attorney Answers 2


  1. Your options are to look into FMLA if you wish and, if you find yourself unable to work any longer (or your work income drops below $1070/mo, gross), you can then file for Social Security Disability. While earning more than that SGA amount, you are not eligible for SSD, unfortunately, and the SSA will not process your medical file to determine if you are legally disabled under its rules. While you are now working, now may be the time to figure out how you will get buy while your case is pending. Case can take a very long time, so you may want to downsize the budget now, while you still can do so affirmatively and as your choosing, rather than it being chosen for you (taken from you, ie foreclosure, etc.)

    I suggest you retain an SSD lawyer before or at the moment you decide you need to stop working SGA. Cases tend to have a better chance with a competent attorney. You have your pick of all SSD attorneys in the country, so you can actually choose who you like/trust, etc, you are not stuck with the guy around the corner if you don't wish to.

    Stephanie O. Joy, Esq., of JoyDisability, is an attorney licensed in New Jersey, but currently practicing federal Social Security Disability law in all 50 states from her PA office. Answers to questions are for general purposes only and do not establish an attorney-client relationship, nor do they constitute legal advice. Rather, if you need representation or legal advise, you need to make direct contact yourself, and inquire. We welcome and respond to all phone calls and emails.


  2. If you are currently employed and seeking accommodation due to your disability then look to the EEOC website for guidance. Specifically, employers are required “to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals with disabilities who are employees or applicants for employment, except when such accommodation would cause an undue hardship.” Furthermore, employees must possess the knowledge, skills and abilities to be able to perform the essential job functions with or without reasonable accommodation. When employees with disabilities have difficulty performing the essential job functions, employers first should consider what if any “reasonable accommodations” might be necessary especially since the publication of the final EEOC regulations amending the ADA went into effect on March 25, 2011. While these regulations outline significant changes to the definition of a disability, they point to the need for employers to focus more on their responsibilities for accommodating employees.

    Your employer may ask you to provide medical certification of the disability (usually this is a form provided by the employer and is to be filled out by the employee and the employee's medical provider) to help determine that the employee is legally disabled and what if any accommodations can be applied in the situation.

    If you feel you have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to do the work and you want to continue working, then EEOC disability accommodation and the interactive process with your employer is one place to start. If your employer is not participating in the interactive process and you feel you are able to continue working with an accommodation, you may need to speak with an attorney.

    The above is my opinion based on limited information you provided– this is NOT legal advice. You have not retained me as your attorney. I am not your legal representative nor am I responsible for any action you may take in reliance of my opinion. No attorney-client or confidential relationship exists or will be formed based on your question and my response. Consult your attorney or legal representative for legal advice regarding your specific matter.

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