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The Basics of Reasonable Accommodation: What You Need to Know

The Basics of Reasonable Accommodation: What You Need to Know

Understanding Reasonable Accommodation: An Intro to FEHA

Everyone has the right to be treated equally and fairly in the workplace, regardless of any physical or mental disability they may have. With the help of reasonable accommodations, employees with disabilities can have the same opportunities as everyone else.

How Does the California FEHA Define Reasonable Accommodation?

What does reasonable accommodation mean?

The Fair Employment and Housing Act – FEHA – defines a reasonable accommodation as any modification or adjustment that enables a qualified individual with a disability to apply for a job, perform the essential functions of a job, or have an equal opportunity to enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment provided to similarly situated employees without disabilities.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) enforces the FEHA, which covers not only physical disabilities, but also covers mental disabilities, medical conditions, and certain specific genetic characteristics. 

Knowing Your Rights: Reasonable Accommodation Under the Fair Employment and Housing Act

What does reasonable accommodation mean for an employee in California under the FEHA?

Your Right to Reasonable Accommodation at the workplace

Are you a California employee who is not receiving accommodations in the workplace necessary to perform your job duties? You may be eligible to receive a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

When an employee in California is disabled and needs assistance to perform the essential duties of their job, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations. This is an important legal protection that allows individuals with disabilities to remain or become employed despite their disability.

Reasonable accommodations are tailored to the individual and the specifics of their disability, and can include a range of adjustments and modifications, such as providing assistive technology, restructuring job duties, granting leave, and providing a physical access to a workspace.

When making a reasonable accommodation request, employees should provide their employers with sufficient information about their disability, the functional limitations it may create, and the type of accommodations needed to make their job performance possible.

Reasonable accommodations should be discussed in the hiring process and during regular conversations between the employee and employer. If an employee feels they need a reasonable accommodation due to their disability, they should inform their employer or supervisor as soon as possible. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to reasonable accommodations and both the employer and employee should collaborate to identify the best solution for each situation.

Reasonable Accommodations Examples

Reasonable accommodations can be changes to the way things are usually done, such as offering more flexible schedules, assigning certain tasks to another employee, modifying the work area, or providing additional training. It can also involve purchasing or modifying equipment, making the work environment more accessible, or providing job coaching or assistance. Here are some examples of reasonable accommodations:

  1. Allowing for flexible work hours or telecommuting options to accommodate medical treatments or therapy sessions.
  2. Providing an ergonomic chair or desk to help an employee with a mobility problem. 
  3. Adjusting the job’s physical design or layout, such as installing a ramp or adjusting the height of a workstation.
  4. Providing a sign-language interpreter or other communication aid for an employee with a hearing impairment.
  5. Allowing for unpaid leaves of absence for medical treatments or therapy sessions. 
  6. Providing special computer software or other assistive devices to accommodate an employee’s vision or hearing loss.
  7. Allowing an employee to bring a service animal to work.
  8. Allowing an employee to take breaks for medication or treatment. 

FEHA: What Does Reasonable Accommodation Mean for California Employers?

As employers in California, it can be difficult to stay up to date on the laws and regulations concerning disability rights. The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), enforced by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), is the primary California law that protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination in the workplace. Under the FEHA, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities.

It is important for employers to be aware of their responsibility to provide reasonable accommodations for disabled employees in order to create an inclusive workplace. The FEHA provides important legal protections for disabled employees and ensures everyone has equal employment opportunities.

When making a reasonable accommodation, employers must make sure that the accommodation does not put undue hardship on the business, such as changes to the operation of a business or added costs. Employers must also ensure that the accommodation does not create a safety hazard or conflict with other employees’ rights.

It’s important for employers to be proactive when it comes to accommodating employee disabilities. As an employer, you should provide employees with disabilities with the necessary tools to perform job tasks, review job descriptions for accessibility, and consult with the employee to determine any necessary changes or accommodations. Common forms of accommodations include making changes to an employee’s workspace, such as providing or modifying furniture; providing adaptive technology; or changing policies or schedules. In addition, employers may also provide reasonable accommodations in the form of unpaid leave to allow an employee with a disability to take time off for medical treatments.

When determining whether a requested accommodation is “reasonable,” employers must consider the cost and the impact of the accommodation on the employer’s business operations. Employers must also provide the accommodation unless doing so would cause an undue hardship, meaning significant difficulty or expense. Employers may be responsible for the cost of reasonable accommodation, but they are not required to provide accommodation that would cause an undue hardship. 

Under the FEHA, it is illegal for an employer to deny a requested accommodation unless it would cause an undue hardship, or if the employee cannot perform the essential functions of the job, even with the accommodation. It is also illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee who requests a reasonable accommodation, or to harass an employee because of their disability.

When an employee with a disability requests an accommodation, employers must provide a response in a timely manner. If the employer believes that an accommodation cannot be provided, they must provide written notice of the decision and the reasons for the denial.

In essence

Making reasonable accommodations is an important obligation for employers in California, and understanding the law is the first step in ensuring that individuals with disabilities have equal access to the workplace. Employers are legally required to consider requests for reasonable accommodation and must make accommodations when necessary to provide equal opportunities to disabled employees unless such accommodations would create an undue hardship.

By working together with their employees, employers can ensure compliance with the law and foster a more diverse and inclusive workplace.

Reasonable accommodation under FEHA is an important right that helps ensure all California employees have equal access to employment opportunities. If you believe you are eligible for reasonable accommodation in the workplace, it is important to speak with an experienced employment attorney to ensure your rights are protected.

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