Reasonable Accommodation Rights of Disabled Employees in California

Nationwide, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects American workers with disabilities from unfair treatment and discrimination. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) also protects disabled workers and generally provides broader safeguards than the ADA. The FEHA applies to all California employers with five or more employees.

The FEHA defines ‘disability’ broadly as any physical or mental impairment that limits one’s ability to perform a major life function, and includes employees with a covered “medical condition”. In addition to providing protection against disability discrimination in the workplace, the ADA and FEHA also provide disabled employees with the right to reasonable accommodations.

What are Reasonable Accommodations?

A reasonable accommodation is a job modification or change that allows an individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of a job. These accommodations may include special equipment, assistive devices, interpreters, alterations to the work environment, job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules, accessibility changes, or even a leave of absence.

Employers with five or more employees are required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities under California law  unless doing so would pose an “undue hardship.” What constitutes an undue hardship varies from company to company based on its available resources, but is defined as an action requiring “significant difficulty or expense.”

What are my responsibilities?

Unless your disability is obvious, it is your responsibility to notify your employer that you have a limitation requiring a reasonable accommodation.  This does not mean that you have to notify your co-workers about your disability or need for accommodations. Once your employer is on notice of your need for an accommodation, both parties are required to then engage in the “interactive process” to determine what accommodations are possible.

What is an “interactive process”?

Simply put, ‘interactive process’ describes a good-faith conversation between an employee with a disability and their employer to address the employee’s limitations and how they will be accommodated in the workplace. It is lawful for your employer to request medical information to understand your limitations, however, you are not required to disclose your disabling condition. The discussion should focus on the limitations or work restrictions caused by the condition, rather than the condition itself. Likewise, employees are not required to identify the exact accommodations needed, but they do need to cooperate in providing the employer with information regarding the employee’s limitations and to work with the employer to help identify accommodations.

If you feel that you’ve been treated unfairly, denied a reasonable accommodation due to a disability, or faced discrimination because of a protected medical condition, The Law Office of Jeannette A. Vaccaro is here to help. Set up a free phone consolation today by calling (415) 444-5800 or visiting https://jvlaw.com/contact-us.

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The Law Office of Jeannette A. Vaccaro

Jeannette A. Vaccaro is a zealous advocate, representing employees in all facets of employment law.

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