Can my employer force me to take a leave unpaid because they wont give me reasonable accommodation?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can my employer force me to take a leave unpaid because they wont give me reasonable accommodation?

I live in NJ and work part time. Ive asked my
employer a big community college for reasonable
accommodation due to chronic migraines. They said
they are looking into it I need alternative lighting to
the bright lights and until they determine if and
where they can give me some reasonable
workstation with less bright lights, I cant come back
to work because they have no space for me. They
didnt give me a say, option, alternatives, just an
ultimatum. Can they do that? Its unpaid leave for at
least 3 days to be revisited based on if they can
come up with anything in the mean time. Otherwise,
its open ended, no clear plan in sight. I know they
are overstaffed at work right now bc its slow season
for our industry and they seem happy to ship me
away instead of assigning workspace in the crowded
cubicle space they did say theres very little room in
the building and they are trying to make assignments
to the cubicle space on a rotation basis for all the
people in my division except me given the tight
space. Please advise.

Thank you.

Asked on January 31, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, New Jersey


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

1) If you can't safely or healthily work until/unless an accommodation is made, having you take a brief leave while they see if they can accommodate you is perfectly reasonable and therefore legal.
2) Remember, overall, the employer's obligation is only to make "reasonable accommodations." If what you need or wnat is too expensive or disruptive for them--including because it would require them to shuttle around several other employees and upset existing space assignments to try and accommodate you; or make changes to lighting that will make the lighting less suitable for other employees or work--they don't need to make that accommodation. Again, only a reasonable accommodation is required.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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