The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is federal law that protects disabled employees from being discriminated against in the workplace. Consistent with the ADA, employees with disabilities are permitted under California disability discrimination law to request reasonable accommodations from their employers in order to help them perform their job duties.
A reasonable accommodation is some modification or adjustment that helps an employee with a disability to have an equal opportunity to perform essential functions of his or her job. Employers are required to provide disabled employees with reasonable accommodations so long as the cost of the reasonable accommodation would not be considered an undue hardship for the employer.
Examples of Reasonable Accommodation for Workers with Disabilities
California Code of Regulations Section 7293.6(p)(2) lays out several reasonable accommodation examples that employees can request from their employer. Here are just some common examples:
- Making modifications to existing facilities to make them readily accessible and usable by employees with disabilities. Employers could modify workspaces to accommodate a disabled employee, such as retrofitting stairs with a ramp, making restrooms and breakrooms accessible, and modifying workplace furniture, equipment or devices, etc. A different or modified chair or desk could make all the difference in a disabled employee's ability to perform his or her job duties. An employee could also be transferred to a different worksite that is accessible.
- Allowing an employee to bring an assistive animal to work. When the assistance of a trained service animal will help a disabled employee perform his or her job duties, the employee is permitted to bring an assistive animal to work. Usually, the animal is a service dog.
- Providing an employee with assistive devices as necessary. Employees with disabilities may request access to assistive devices that can help them do their job, such as dictation software, recording devices, qualified readers, or interpreters.
- Job restructuring and schedule adjustments. An employee's job can be restructured, i.e., non-essential job functions can be redistributed to other employees. Additionally, an employee's hours could be reduced, or a work schedule could be made more flexible in order to accommodate an employee's disability. A disabled worker might need extra time to get into work, or need to reduce their workday from an eight-hour shift to a five-hour shift. Similarly, an employee might need additional breaks during the workday. This could also include reassigning an employee with a disability to a different, vacant position.
- Location of job performance can be moved. It may be necessary to allow an employee to perform his or her job duties at a different worksite location, or to utilize a telework, or a work-from-home arrangement. Work-from-home options are often dependent upon whether the job is of a type that can be performed at home and whether an employer can afford the technology to enable a disabled employee to work from home. In the case of some smaller employers, it might not be feasible to make a work-from-home accommodation if the cost of the technology would be considered an undue hardship.
- Modifying work policies or workplace rules. Workplace policies and rules can be modified to accommodate disabled employees' reasonable accommodations. For instance, an employee who has a blood sugar health condition could be permitted to have a small snack break even if eating while on the job and not during designated meal breaks is generally against the rules of the workplace.
Employees with disabilities should be obliged when they request reasonable accommodations from their employers. If you are a disabled employee and you believe that your employer may have improperly denied you a reasonable accommodation, get in touch with the California employment lawyers at Hennig Ruiz. Get a free consultation.