California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act requires employers of five or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations to those with physical or mental disabilities. If an employer refuses to provide such accommodations, a San Francisco employment rights attorney can help.

Some employers in California may resist the cost of reasonable accommodations for their disabled workers. They may also fear potential legal liabilities related to the accommodations, or they may have unwarranted or outdated ideas about productivity and the disabled.

Exactly what accommodations for disabled workers are considered reasonable? Exactly what does the law in California require of employers? And what recourse does a disabled employee have when a California employer refuses to provide a reasonable accommodation?

If you keep reading, you’ll learn the answers to these questions about reasonable accommodations, and you will also learn more about the rights of disabled workers in California.

Exactly What Are Reasonable Accommodations?

Any commonsense modification to a work environment that lets a disabled person do the job – or do it it as well as other workers – may be considered a reasonable accommodation.

Reasonable accommodations for the disabled can be seen everywhere. Wheelchair ramps, dedicated parking spaces, and instructional materials made available in Braille or audio are some common examples of reasonable accommodations.

The Fair Employment and Housing Act, along with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), allows a disabled worker to ask an employer for a reasonable accommodation during the hiring process or at any time after being hired.

How Do You Ask For A Reasonable Accommodation?

If your disability isn’t obvious, an employer may reasonably and legally require a statement from your doctor that you may need a reasonable accommodation. It is seldom a point of dispute – most employers in this state have no problem arranging for reasonable accommodations.

And almost all California employers know about reasonable accommodations. If you’re disabled and need an accommodation, let your employer know. For instance, if your wheelchair does not fit your work area or desk, you can ask for an adjustment or for a different worktable or desk.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, accommodations for disabled workers “not only are low cost, but also positively impact the workplace in many ways.” The Labor Department reports that most of the requested workplace accommodations cost nothing for employers to implement.

What Are Some Common Examples Of Reasonable Accommodations?

Some examples of the accommodations that are commonly requested – and cost nothing – include slight dress code variations, scheduling flexibility, or letting a worker sit at a task where workers typically stand (or vice-versa).

Reasonable accommodations may also include:

1. altering job responsibilities
2. providing medical leave
3. providing frequent breaks throughout the workday

Can Employers Be Credited Or Reimbursed For Reasonable Accommodations?

Providing reasonable accommodations helps employers keep good workers, boosts productivity, and improves morale. When there is a cost, most employers can be partially reimbursed for a special accommodation.

Small businesses may qualify for a 50 percent tax credit on reasonable accommodation expenditures from $250 to $10,250, with a $5,000 maximum annual credit. Employers who hire disabled veterans may additionally qualify for several other tax benefits and credits.

Most employers are glad to hire disabled people who can do the job. Successful business owners are usually reasonable people. They listen to others and consider the facts. But what if an employer rejects a disabled employee’s request for a reasonable accommodation?

When Is An Accommodation Unreasonable?

While employers may be legally required to make a particular accommodation for an injured, ill, or disabled employee, the law also spells out what isn’t required of employers. The law imposes obligations on employers, but it also protects them.

For example, an employer may be required to provide a medical leave of some specific length of time to an employee as a reasonable accommodation, but “indefinitely” is not a reasonable length of time.

Unreasonable accommodations that place an “undue hardship” on an employer are not required under the ADA or under California state law. An employment rights lawyer can offer you personalized legal advice if you believe that your employer is in any way violating your rights.

If You Face Disability Discrimination, What Steps Should You Take?

Employment discrimination based on a disability is illegal under both federal and state law. If you file a disability discrimination claim, it’s helpful to show that you made every reasonable effort to deal with the discrimination situation before you chose to pursue legal action.

If you are disabled and you face any sort of employment discrimination, speak to a California attorney who has substantial experience defending the rights of disabled workers. Your attorney will explain your rights and options and will recommend the best way for you to proceed.

Although the Americans With Disabilities Act has been a federal law for three decades, and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act is even older – it goes back to 1959 – some employers in California are still discriminating against the disabled.

How Can An Employment Rights Lawyer Help?

Scores of disabled workers have filed disability discrimination lawsuits against California employers and have prevailed. The refusal or failure to provide a reasonable accommodation to a disabled employee is unlawful – but “reasonable” is the key word in the law.

If an employer in California fails or refuses to grant a disabled employee’s request for a reasonable accommodation, that employee should consult a San Francisco employment rights attorney who can determine if you have sufficient grounds for taking legal action.

If you have been victimized at work by disability discrimination, the right employment lawyer will negotiate for your reinstatement, your back wages, and in most cases, for additional damages.

How Are Discrimination Claims Resolved?

Out-of-court negotiations are how most California employment discrimination claims are settled. Private settlements save everyone involved a considerable amount of resources, time, and inconvenience.

But if your employer denies that discrimination took place, or if the employer claims that the accommodation you requested was unreasonable and would create an undue hardship, your lawyer may advise you to take the case to trial and to ask a jury for the justice you deserve.

No working person should suffer employment discrimination in California.

If you are facing disability discrimination at your place of work, it should not be tolerated, and the law in this state will be on your side. The most important thing is having the advice and guidance of a good employment attorney. That is your right.

By: Fred Geonetta

Frederick J. Geonetta is a graduate of the University of California, Hastings College of Law. His legal practice is entirely devoted to litigation. Mr. Geonetta has spent the past 25 years in private practice representing both plaintiffs and defendants who have been harmed or wronged by the actions of others or who have been falsely accused of causing harm to others. He represents clients across the U.S. and international clients who seek U.S. legal advice or representation.