California state law provides significant protections for employees with disabilities. Such laws are provided under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), which prohibits employer discrimination based on an employee/applicant’s disability, or other protected status. In Los Angeles, when an employee has a covered disability, the FEHA requires an employer to do two things. First, that employer must make sure to provide reasonable accommodations to both job applicants and employees who cannot perform an essential function(s) of their position because of a covered disability. Second, when necessary an employer must make sure to take part in a good faith, timely and interactive process with both job applicants and employees who require reasonable accommodations.
If you feel that your employer has not upheld these requirements under the FEHA, you may have a legal claim against that employer. However, you will need to understand the types of disabilities covered by the FEHA, as well as the intricacies of the above two employer requirements.
The Different Types of Covered Disabilities in LA
Under the FEHA there are two distinct types of disabilities. There are physical disabilities which are when a person has any sort of physiological disorder, condition, disease, anatomical loss, or cosmetic disfigurement that affects that person’s body systems and causes limitations to any major life activity. A major life activity includes acts such as working, and is covered if such disease, condition, disorder or disfigurement makes the achievement of any major life activity difficult to complete. Relevant body systems covered under physical disabilities include:
- Special sense organs;
- Hymphatic and hemic; and
- Endocrine systems.
The term physical disability is broadly interpreted to include all other health impairments that require special education and other assistance/services, as well as a person’s record and/or history of physical disability, and even an employer’s perception that a person has a physical disabilities.
Under the FEHA a mental disability is any psychological or mental condition/disorder, which can include without limitation an emotional/mental illness, learning disability, organic brain syndrome, mental retardation, or any other psychological/mental condition or disorder that requires a person to receive special education or other related services. Also covered under the FEHA definition of mental disability include those employees perceived by the employer as having a mental condition/disorder, as well as any employee with a history/record of a psychological or mental disorder/condition that is known by the employer. Conduct and conditions specifically excluded from the definition of mental disabilities include compulsive gambling, kleptomania, psychoactive substance abuse disorders and sexual behavior disorders.
Once it has been established that a job applicant or employee has a mental or physical disability that is protected under the FEHA, an employer is legally obligation to ensure that reasonable accommodations are provided for that employee, unless the provision of such accommodations would create an undue hardship to the employer’s business operations. In order to determine the proper reasonable accommodation, an employer must engage in an interactive, good-faith process to allow the employee or applicant to maintain or obtain employment. Relevant terms that should be understood include:
- Reasonable Accommodation: all appropriate measures that if instituted would allow a disabled employee or applicant to perform essential job functions. Common reasonable accommodations include work schedule modifications and facility modifications for easier access for disabled individuals;
- Interactive Process: the employer should consult with the applicant or employee so that any job-related limitations are ascertained. From there both parties should discuss what reasonable accommodations can be used to overcome any limitations, and how effective such accommodations may be. While the employee/applicant’s preferences can be considered, the chosen accommodation for implementation ultimately should be whichever accommodation is appropriate for both the employer and employee; and
- Good Faith: means that the employee and employer must directly communicate with one another so as to determine all essential information necessary to determine reasonable accommodation options. Neither employer nor employee can interfere or delay this interactive process. To prove that the interactive process was taken in good faith, an employer must be able to reference specific cooperative behavior and conduct between the employer and employee.
Los Angeles, California Employment Law Attorneys – Offering Exceptional Legal Assistance
California state law requires all employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees and job applicants with either physical and/or mental disabilities. Thus, if your employer has failed to provide reasonable accommodations, either by not engaging in an interactive good faith process, or by otherwise failing to attempt to assist you in successfully conducting your job functions, you may have a claim of breach of the FEHA. Contact an employment attorney at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Los Angeles, California for any FEHA violations that your employer has made.
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