Though many California employees are familiar with legal protections against discrimination in the workplace, there are some subtleties that workers may not know. One detail involves reasonable accommodations and the employer’s duty to make adjustments to workplace conditions. A California employment law attorney can explain in more detail, but answers to frequently asked questions may be useful for affected workers.
Why do reasonable accommodations matter?
The point is important because of state and federal laws that prohibit discrimination in the workplace on account of a worker’s disability. These statutes require companies to make adjustments to work conditions that will enable an employee with a physical or mental disability to effectively perform job-related tasks.
Though federal law applies to larger companies, the Fair Employment and Housing Act imposes the reasonable accommodation mandate upon all California employers with five or more employees.
What work conditions would qualify as reasonable accommodations?
The details will vary based upon the employee’s disability, the job position, and many other factors. However, proper reasonable accommodations may include:
- Modifying the worker’s duties;
- Allowing sufficient time for medical appointments;
- Altering the employee’s hours;
- Providing assistive devices; and,
- Relocating the employee’s workspace.
How does the “interactive process” requirement work?
The employer’s duty to provide reasonable accommodations is typically triggered when it knows of the employee’s disability, either through express notification or through other channels, and the employee requests accommodation. At this point, the “interactive process” phase begins and the employer must work with the employee to determine whether an accommodation can be provided. The process is often informal, involving a conversation with the worker about the changes that will allow him or her to perform necessary work tasks. The employee also required to participate in the interactive process in good faith.
Does an employer need to provide all possible accommodations?
There are limitations on what an employer must do to comply with the law. Any accommodations that would cause an undue hardship would probably not be considered reasonable. According to California law, this would include making adjustments or alterations that would create significant difficulty or expense. However, whether an accommodation is reasonable often depends upon the facts of the case.
What should an employee do if an employer violates his or her rights?
An employee may have a claim of workplace discrimination if:
- The employer receives notice regarding the employee’s disability and request for accommodation, and then fails to participate in the interactive process;
- The employer and employee agree upon reasonable accommodations, but the employer does not implement them;
- The employer refuses to provide reasonable accommodations that would enable the employee to perform the essential job duties.
In addition, an employee has rights in the event that he or she is the subject of adverse action for requesting reasonable accommodations. An employer cannot retaliate against an employee for requesting an accommodation. Examples of retaliation might include being terminated, having hours cut, a reduction in wages, or other conduct that violates US and California statutes on discrimination in the workplace.
A California Employment Law Attorney Can Provide More Information
Employees with additional questions about reasonable accommodations can contact the lawyers at Minnis & Smallets LLP or complete an online consultation request form. We are happy to schedule a case evaluation to offer details that are custom-tailored for our clients.