Employers in California have a duty and legal obligation to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. The law says they have to provide these accommodations unless it would cause the employer "undue hardship." A reasonable accommodation is a change to an employee's job duties or his or her work environment that could help him or her perform the essential functions of the position.
Some examples of such accommodations include making the employee's workspace accessible, changing the employee's work hours, and offering them a flexible work schedule. There are accommodations to which an employee may have a legal right. The types of accommodations often depend on the nature of the job and the specific situation. It is important to note that California law protects both employees and job applicants with disabilities or medical conditions.
If you have been discriminated against because of your disabilities or you have been denied a job because an employer would not make reasonable accommodations for you to perform that job, you may have a valid employment lawsuit. Contact an experienced Los Angeles employment lawyer to obtain more information about your legal rights and options.
What Qualifies as a Disability?
Under California law, employers are not required to accommodate each and every medical condition. To receive the protection of reasonable accommodation laws in California, an employee's condition must first qualify as a disability. Disabilities that require accommodations usually fall under two major categories:
Physical disabilities: These are the most common types of disabilities that require some type of accommodation at the workplace. An employee is said to have a physical disability if he or she has some bodily condition, disfigurement or anatomical loss; if they have some type of health impairment that requires special education or services; or they have a record or history of a disease or impairment. So, if an employee has conditions such as arthritis, chronic pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, diabetes, epilepsy, etc. those qualify as physical disabilities.
Mental disabilities: These types of disabilities include intellectual disabilities, emotional or mental illness, or specific learning disabilities. Examples of these disabilities include depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, and bipolar disorder. Some examples of conditions that are not covered include sexual disorders, compulsive gambling, illegal substance abuse, etc.
What is a "Reasonable Accommodation?"
A disability accommodation is considered "reasonable" when adjustments are made so workers with disabilities are able to carry out their essential job duties. The only exception is if the employer can prove that granting such an accommodation creates an undue hardship to the business's operation. A business is said to be subject to undue hardship if the disability would require significant difficulty or expense.
A determination of undue hardship is often based on a number of factors including:
- The type and expense involved in making the accommodation that is needed.
- The overall financial resources of the business that will be making the reasonable accommodation, the number of persons employed at the facility and the effect on expenses and resources of the facility.
- The type of operation of the employer including the structure and functions of the workforce and the fiscal relationship of the facility involved in making the accommodation.
- The impact of the accommodation on the facility's operation.
In cases where the disability is not obvious, the employer can ask the employee for reasonable supporting medical documentation. The employee should be able to provide the employer with a list of restrictions that must be met to accommodate him or her.
However, this request for documentation does not give an employer the right to see all of the employee's medical record and history.
Here are some examples of reasonable accommodations:
- Allowing an employee to take time off from work for doctor's appointments or physical therapy appointments.
- Modifying an employee's job description to get rid of non-essential functions that might prove difficult for him or her because of his or her disability.
- Allowing an employee to have a flexible schedule so they can decide their hours of work.
- Allowing an employee to work remotely on certain days.
- Buying or modifying the employee's workspace.
- Providing wheelchair access or materials that might help the employee perform the job such as braille materials or special equipment.
- Allowing employees to bring guide dogs to the work site.
- Modifying training materials or policies so the employee can undergo training.
Employers Cannot Retaliate Against You
Often, we see that employees are worried about disclosing a disability or requesting reasonable accommodations because they are worried that employers might hold that against them. However, it is important to understand that both California and federal employment laws protect individuals who request accommodations for their disabilities.
Employees are legally protected from such forms of retaliation. Even if the employee's request for a reasonable accommodation is eventually denied, an employer is prohibited by the law from retaliating against the employee for requesting the accommodation. Employers who wrongfully terminate or take adverse action against their employees in this manner can be held liable for the losses caused. Some common examples of unlawful retaliation include deliberately giving the employee poor job performance reviews, reducing his or her working hours, terminating his or her employment, transferring the employee or attempting to force him or her to resign. If you believe that your employee has retaliated or discriminated against you or has shown harassing behavior as a result of your disability or medical condition, it is important that you speak with an experienced Los Angeles employment lawyer to obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights.
If You Have Been Discriminated Against
If you have been discriminated or retaliated against because you requested a disability accommodation or if you have been denied such an accommodation, the experienced discrimination lawyers at Kingsley & Kingsley can help you understand your legal rights and options. You may also want to consider speaking with your supervisor, human resources representative or a person who may be in charge of disability accommodation. You may also be able to file a formal complaint against your employer or file an employment lawsuit. Call us today for a free, comprehensive and confidential consultation.