The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) has many protections for disabled employees. Among other things, the FEHA requires employers to make reasonable accommodation for the known disabilities of applicants and employees to enable them to perform a position’s essential functions, unless doing so would produce undue hardship to the employer’s operations. Cal. Gov. Code, § 12940(m).

Since the whole point of the accommodation is to keep an employee working despite having a disability, the facts and circumstances of the specific situation must be examined in identifying the proper reasonable accommodation for a given situation.

According to the Law, what is Reasonable Accommodation?

According to the California Code of Regulations, a “reasonable accommodation” is: “(1) modifications or adjustments that are: (A) effective in enabling an applicant with a disability to have an equal opportunity to be considered for a desired job, or (B) effective in enabling an employee to perform the essential functions of the job the employee holds or desires, or (C) effective in enabling an employee with a disability to enjoy equivalent benefits and privileges of employment as are enjoyed by similarly situated employees without disabilities” Cal. Code Regs. tit. 2 § 11065(p)(1). Thus, the selection of an appropriate accommodation is an individualized process depending on the limitations of the applicant’s or employee’s disability.

So, for example, an employee who undergoes surgery may need the accommodation of time off from work, while an employee who has injured his or her back may simply need light-duty work for a period of time.

Reasonable accommodation may include but are not limited to, such measures as:

  • Making existing facilities used by applicants and employees readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. This may include, but is not limited to, providing accessible break rooms, restrooms, training rooms, or reserved parking places; acquiring or modifying furniture, equipment, or devices; or making other similar adjustments in the work environment;
  • Allowing applicants or employees to bring assistive animals to the work site;
  • Transferring an employee to a more accessible worksite;
  • Providing assistive aids and services such as qualified readers or interpreters to an applicant or employee;
  • Job restructuring. This may include, but is not limited to, reallocation or redistribution of non-essential job functions in a job with multiple responsibilities;
  • Providing a part-time or modified work schedule;
  • Permitting an alteration of when and/or how an essential function is performed;
  • Providing an adjustment or modification of examinations, training materials, or policies;
  • Modifying an employer policy;
  • Modifying supervisory methods (e.g., dividing complex tasks into smaller parts);
  • Providing additional training;
  • Permitting an employee to work from home;
  • Providing paid or unpaid leave for treatment and recovery, consistent with section 11068(c);
  • Providing a reassignment to a vacant position, consistent with section 11068(d); and
  • Other similar accommodations.

Cal. Code Regs. tit. 2 § 11065(p)(2).

How to Request A Reasonable Accommodation

While no magic words need to be used, the employee has the responsibility to request a reasonable accommodation and “cooperate in good faith with the employer” by providing “reasonable medical documentation” when the disability or need for accommodation is not obvious Cal. Code Regs. tit. 2 § 11069(d). If for some reason the case ends up in litigation regarding the issue of whether or not the employer reasonably accommodated an employee’s disability it is always helpful to have documentation of the fact that the employee requested an accommodation. Therefore, an employee who needs accommodation would – as a general proposition – do well to document the accommodation request.

Contact Akopyan Law Firm A.P.C.

Employees in Southern California can contact Akopyan Law Firm A.P.C. for assistance. We offer a complimentary case evaluation and contingency fee services. Please view our case results and testimonials. Are you being mistreated by your employer for your disability? We can help.