The worst workplaces are those where the employees go to work with every intention of fulfilling their job duties, but the employer constantly puts up obstacles in their way. For example, maybe you once had a boss who wanted to spend the whole workday shooting the breeze, but when normal work hours ended, your work was still unfinished, so he would make you stay late to finish all your tasks. Many teachers have stories about schools not providing the supplies and materials they were supposed to provide, so the teachers had to supply these things at their own expense. Employers must provide employees with a work environment that enables employees to perform their work tasks as the job description or employment contract dictates. This includes making reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. The San Francisco disability and reasonable accommodations lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP can answer your questions about disability accommodations and disability discrimination in the workplace.
How Severe Does Your Disability Have to Be to Qualify for Workplace Accommodations?
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and related laws define a disability as a long-lasting health condition that interferes with your ability to engage in certain necessary activities or perform certain tasks. Therefore, some disabilities are temporary while others are permanent, and some are immediately noticeable to other people, while others are not. Only the most severe disabilities completely prevent people from working. Millions of people who are currently employed have received a diagnosis of a disability at some point in their lives.
How much of an obstacle your disability poses to your work depends on the nature of your disability and your job. You may require certain accommodations in order to do the job that you are hired to do or the one for which you are applying and for which you are qualified. If the disability interferes with your ability to do some aspects of the job, you qualify for disability accommodations.
What Makes an Accommodation Reasonable in San Francisco?
Employees and job applicants who require accommodations at work or during the pre-employment screening and training process should provide a letter from the employee’s doctor to the employer. The letter does not specify the employee’s diagnosis since medical privacy laws protect this information, but it describes the nature of the accommodation that the employee requires. These are some common types of accommodations for employees with disabilities:
- Modifications to the work environment – This might include a wheelchair-accessible desk for an employee who uses a wheelchair. An employee with chronic back pain might request an ergonomic chair, whereas most employees in the same role sit on wooden stools or stand during the entire shift.
- Special equipment – A blind employee might require a Braille keyboard or speech-to-text software in order to type emails and documents on the company’s devices. A deaf employee might require a pager capable of sending and receiving text messages, whereas most employees in the same role use walkie-talkies.
- Changes to the work location or work schedule – Your employer might modify your hours to accommodate your doctor’s office visits or physical therapy appointments or allow you to take more frequent breaks than other employees in order to take medication or test your blood sugar. Working remotely instead of onsite can be a reasonable accommodation in some jobs.
Once you present the accommodation request letter to your employer, California law requires employers to make the next move by offering accommodation. You are not obligated to accept the first accommodation offer that your employer makes if you do not think that it is sufficient to enable you to do your job. Agreeing on reasonable accommodations is a two-way negotiation process between the employer and the employee. A San Francisco employment lawyer can help you negotiate with your employer for reasonable accommodations.
“Reasonable” in the context of “reasonable accommodations” means “for a reasonable price. In other words, an accommodation is reasonable if your employer can afford to make it and if it will enable you to do your job. Large corporations can easily afford accommodations that small businesses would find financially burdensome. The cost of a wheelchair-accessible desk is a drop in the bucket for a Fortune 500 company, but it is prohibitively expensive for a mom-and-pop operation.
Filing a Disability Discrimination Complaint in San Francisco
Disability is a protected characteristic, which means that it is against the law for employers to discriminate against employees because of it. Likewise, requesting accommodation for a disability is a protected activity. This means that it is illegal for your San Francisco employer to retaliate against you for doing it. Retaliation is when an employer takes adverse action against an employee for doing something that the employee was within their rights to do. Adverse actions include demotion, unfairly negative performance reviews, excessive scrutiny, harassment, and termination of employment. Retaliating against an employee for requesting accommodations for a disability is a form of disability discrimination.
If your employer’s behavior toward you changed after you requested a disability accommodation, you should contact an employment discrimination lawyer as soon as possible. You must go through a series of preliminary steps before filing an employment discrimination lawsuit, and the deadlines for these are short. For example, you must first communicate with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and the EEOC must conduct an investigation into your complaint to see whether you have grounds to file a lawsuit. You can only sue your employer for disability discrimination after the EEOC gives you permission to do so. You should strategize with an employment discrimination lawyer before you contact the EEOC, as this will help you avoid mistakes and get a successful outcome for your case.
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP About Disability Discrimination in San Francisco
The San Francisco employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP can help you request reasonable accommodations for a disability or resolve disputes with your employer over disability accommodations. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in San Francisco, California, to set up a consultation.