California is generally very protective of its employees. There are few ways in which the employer can gain an upper hand in discriminating or mistreating his employees.
California’s protections are much more inclusive than those provided by the Federal government. Reasonable accommodations are one such area that has numerous protections in accordance with California laws. It is important to understand reasonable accommodation laws in the California workplace to ensure that you are not mistreated at work or that you are unfairly discriminated against because of injuries or disabilities. We believe that everyone should be appropriately aware of these laws and the consequences for employers, as well as what kind of actions you can take if you suffer mistreatment. Our law group, Employment Attorney Group, has provided you with ample information below regarding accommodation laws in California workplaces.
Who is Responsible for Employment Laws and Enforcement in California?
What are Reasonable Accommodations?
Reasonable accommodations are changes to job duties or functions because of disabilities or other issues. According to the law, your employer must grant you reasonable accommodations as long as they fill the following criteria:
- Your employer is aware of the disability or issue
- The accommodation is reasonable and will not cost the company excessive money or will not place others in danger or prevent them from completing their duties
- The accommodation will allow you to complete your primary job functions
Reasonable accommodations can take on many forms. Some of the most common include:
- Changing job duties or functions
- Getting leave to go for medical treatment
- Alteration of work schedules
- Presence of stools and seats for sitting
- Extra break time
- Mechanical or electrical aids, like wheelchairs, walkers, and more
- Remote work
- Providing a sign language interpreter or providing Braille
- Service animals
Some of these accommodations are very easy to grant, such as extra break time. It is important that the employer prepare for the change in dynamics and efficiency, though. It is also recommended that you be aware of when you take your break times, if you have the ability to control it. It may be wiser and fairer to your employer if you take breaks when the environment is not as busy or hectic as it may be during another time.
What Laws Are Relevant To Reasonable Accommodations In The Workplace In California?
Because of how lengthy and comprehensive the FEHA is, it has been split into numerous sections to tackle each aspect of employment, from discrimination to leave laws. For reasonable accommodations, specific language can be found in the following section.
Title 2, Government Of The State Of California; Division 3, Executive Department; Part 2.8, Department Of Fair Employment And Housing; Chapter 6, Discrimination Prohibited; Article 1, Unlawful Practices; Section 12940: “It is an unlawful employment practice…for an employer, because of the…physical disability, mental disability, medical condition…to refuse to hire or employ the person, to bar or discharge the person from employment, or to discriminate in compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges.“
We will acknowledge each section below to simplify it.
(1) This part does not prohibit an employer from refusing to hire or discharging an employee with a physical or mental disability, or subject an employer to any legal liability resulting from the refusal to employ or the discharge of an employee with a physical or mental disability, if the employee, because of a physical or mental disability, is unable to perform the employee’s essential duties even with reasonable accommodations, or cannot perform those duties in a manner that would not endanger the employee’s health or safety or the health or safety of others even with reasonable accommodations.
If the employer has offered reasonable accommodations to the employee but the employee still cannot complete his duties, or if his presence and accommodations are a burden on the company or a health hazard, the employer can legally fire him.
(2) This part does not prohibit an employer from refusing to hire or discharging an employee who, because of the employee’s medical condition, is unable to perform the employee’s essential duties even with reasonable accommodations, or cannot perform those duties in a manner that would not endanger the employee’s health or safety or the health or safety of others even with reasonable accommodations. Nothing in this part shall subject an employer to any legal liability resulting from the refusal to employ or the discharge of an employee who, because of the employee’s medical condition, is unable to perform the employee’s essential duties, or cannot perform those duties in a manner that would not endanger the employee’s health or safety or the health or safety of others even with reasonable accommodations.
The employer cannot be sued or have legal action taken against him if he refuses to employ the individual or fires him because of his inability to perform the essential duties of the job, even with the assistance of reasonable accommodations.
(n) For an employer or other entity covered by this part to fail to engage in a timely, good faith, interactive process with the employee or applicant to determine effective reasonable accommodations, if any, in response to a request for reasonable accommodation by an employee or applicant with a known physical or mental disability or known medical condition.
The employer must act in a timely manner and respond quickly to the employee once he has expressed the need for reasonable accommodations. He must engage in the interactive process, which incorporates both parties determining how to move forward. Bear in mind that reasonable accommodations are not only limited to physical disabilities. Some individuals who are religious may request reasonable accommodations for prayer areas or to wear religious clothing to work despite the existence of a dress code. Points pertaining to this section can be found in (L) in the above-linked section. A fair example of a case that came about is Scotch v. The Art Institute of California, which can be summarily found here. The case essentially pertains to an employee at the Institute who was HIV positive, and his employer upon discovering that fact, reduced him to a part-time employee and committed illegal transgressions, such as wrongful termination, failure to provide a reasonable accommodation, retaliation, and more.
What Should I Do To File A Lawsuit For A Failure To Provide A Reasonable Accommodation?
Statute of Limitations to Sue for a Reasonable Accommodation Violation
By filing a lawsuit against your employer, you have the opportunity to get certain types of compensation for your losses and damages. As a victim, you can have your lost income reimbursed, which can help you out if you have bills to pay and cannot work due to your disability. You can earn lost income from both the past and future. You also can receive coverage for lost benefits, like healthcare and more. In some cases, you can be reinstated into your old position if you were fired or let go because of the inability to have your accommodation granted. You may not choose to agree to this term, though, as the workplace could become toxic if you return, especially if your boss is still there and has not been terminated. Retaliation is also likely in such cases. Emotional distress, or pain and suffering, can be granted to you as well, which would cover the psychological effects of the situation. You may be left with fear and anxiety after going through such an ordeal, which is unfair to you and can affect your future life. Punitive damages may also be awarded, which are awarded when an employer’s actions are notably egregious. These damages are meant to punish the employer for his behavior and to dissuade him from behaving in such a manner again in the future. They are extremely difficult to win, though, and you must have a fair amount of in your case, due to the fact that many juries and judges view them as needlessly harsh or excessive. Only a skilled lawyer with experience in employment law can win them for you.