One of your employees, Beth, is deaf and has requested leave as a reasonable accommodation to train a new hearing dog. Hearing dogs assist deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals by alerting them to a variety of household and workplace sounds such as a telephone ring, door knock or doorbell, alarm clock, buzzer, name call, speaker announcement, and smoke or fire alarm. A hearing dog is trained to make physical contact and direct a person to the source of the sound. You hesitate to grant Beth's request because, under your leave policy, she does not have enough annual or sick leave to cover her requested absence. Must her request for accommodation be granted?
Yes. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to provide adjustments or modifications that enable qualified people with disabilities to enjoy equal employment opportunities unless doing so would result in undue hardship (i.e., significant difficulty or expense). Employers should not assume all individuals with hearing impairments will require an accommodation or even the same accommodation as accommodations vary depending on the needs of the individual with a disability. In this instance, Beth's request for leave to train a new hearing dog will require her employer to accommodate her with time off in the form of accrued paid leave or unpaid leave if paid leave has been exhausted or is unavailable, absent undue hardship.
Source: EEOC Publication: "Questions and Answers about Deafness and Hearing Impairments in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act," reported in ADA Disabilities Management Guide, ¶140,320; https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/qa_deafness.cfm.