Disability Discrimination /Reasonable Accommodations
What can I do if my employer won’t make the necessary accommodations for my disability?
The standard for accommodations is whether the proposed accommodation is reasonable, not necessary. The employer does not need to provide every accommodation an employee requests, nor must it change the essential functions of a job or create a new position as an accommodation. In fact, an employer can deny a request for accommodation if the employer can demonstrate that granting the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer. However, employers are required to engage in a timely and good faith interactive process (a fancy way of saying “dialogue”) with their employees to help determine what reasonable accommodation(s) will provide for the employees’ work restriction(s) and allow the employee to perform the essential functions of the job.
The first step is to make your employer aware you have certain workplace restrictions. You can let your employer know that the restrictions are because of an existing disability (a physical or mental condition that limits a major life activity, including work), but you do not need to identify the exact disability (just the restrictions themselves); this is usually accomplished by giving your employer a note from your doctor certifying that you have restrictions due to a disability. Sometimes, the disability itself may make it obvious the accommodations you need (e.g., if you show up to work with a cast on your leg). Or your employer may perceive or regard you, or treat you, as having or as having had a disability.
Once your employer is aware of your need for accommodation(s), the employer must begin the interactive process. (For example, if you have a broken leg, it may be reasonable to ask your employer to build a temporary ramp for the outside stairs so you can get into the building; it would not be reasonable to demand your employer install a new elevator. But it might be reasonable to ask to relocate your office to make it more accessible. And so on.) The key here is that the process is interactive, meaning both sides must participate in good faith, and it is an ongoing process (you don’t just stop after one meeting). In fact, if the interactive process breaks down, and the parties are not able to reach a reasonable accommodation, the party that is responsible for the breakdown could be held liable in the future for failing to engage in the process in good faith. So, keep at it until you reach a reasonable solution. A helpful resource is the Job Accommodation Network: https://askjan.org/, which you should share with your employer. You can search for recommended accommodations by disability type.
Keep in mind that a medical leave of absence may be the most appropriate accommodation in certain situations, and it is an acceptable form of accommodation. Whether you need a leave of absence will depend on your doctor’s opinion. (But also note that an employer may not force you to go on leave if you can work with a reasonable accommodation.) In some cases, it may be appropriate to reassign you to a vacant position for which you are qualified, even if it is a lesser position. The interactive process is designed to find the best reasonable accommodation for your needs.
If you feel you are being retaliated against for asking for an accommodation or going on medical leave, contact an attorney at Sansanowicz Law Group.
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Sansanowicz Law Group
21031 Ventura Boulevard, Suite 701
Woodland Hills, CA 91364
Tel: (818) 639-8510
Fax: (818) 639-8511
21031 Ventura Boulevard
Woodland Hills, CA 91364