Modern technology has made possible the invention of a wide array of equipment and devices that make it easier for people with disabilities to do a lot of work tasks, as well as leisure activities, independently. Anyone who uses a wheelchair, mobility scooter, or exoskeleton to get from place to place has opinions about why they chose the device they use and which of its features they wish were different. Likewise, deaf and hearing-impaired people who enable closed captioning when watching videos can identify common errors that automated closed-captioning programs make, and they may have opinions about which of these common errors are annoying and which ones are funny. Whichever devices and apps you routinely use at work and at home are just a normal part of living with your disability. It would be unfair for your employer to refuse to let you use them at work; in fact, it would be employment discrimination. If you are involved in a dispute over disability accommodations with your current or former employer or with a company where you have applied for a job, contact the San Diego employment discrimination lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP.
What is a Disability Accommodation?
The legal definition of a disability is any long-lasting health condition that significantly impairs the person’s ability to perform their job duties or tasks of daily life. Almost any physical or mental health problem can be a disability if it is severe enough and continues for a long enough time. Some disabilities are inborn, while others have a later onset, and some are the result of traumatic injuries. A serious health condition that limits your ability to work for several months but then gradually resolves on its own can be a disability, as can one that goes into remission after treatment. Blindness, deafness, impaired mobility, and post-traumatic stress disorder are some of the disabilities most often mentioned in news about disability-related laws, but you are still entitled to disability accommodations in your workplace even if your disability is not one of the ones listed above.
In the context of employment law, a disability accommodation is any product or service that enables a person with a disability to do their job, but without which they would not be able to do the job. These are some examples of accommodations that employees with disabilities can request to use in the workplace:
- Flexibility with work schedules and leave periods so that employees can attend medical appointments, take medication, or use wheelchair-accessible public transportation
- Removing non-essential tasks from an employee’s duties and reassigning them to other workers, if appropriate
- Mechanical or electronic devices and software, such as wheelchairs, mobility-scooters, closed captioning, text-to-speech applications, Braille keyboards, and software that enables audio streaming to an employee’s hearing aid
- Allowing an employee to bring a service animal to a workplace in a location where animals are not normally allowed
- The services of assistants such as drivers, readers, or sign language interpreters
Disability Accommodations and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act
The Americans of Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is a federal law that codifies the protections that people with disabilities have the right to enjoy in the workplace. At the state level, workers and job seekers with disabilities have recourse to the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. These laws indicate that businesses that employ five or more people must provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities to enable them to do jobs for which they are qualified. Employers must make these accommodations available not only to workers they have already hired, but also to prospective employees, during the job application, interview, pre-employment testing, and training phases.
The law indicates that workers with disabilities have the right to request and receive reasonable accommodations in the workplace. An accommodation is reasonable if providing it does not cause an undue hardship (defined as a danger or an excessive financial burden) to the employer. Whether an accommodation constitutes an undue hardship depends on the resources available to the employer. If your employer claims that they are genuinely unable to provide the accommodation that you have requested, but you have reason to believe that your employer simply does not want to provide it, contact the San Diego employment lawyers at HKM Employment Lawyers LLP.
Is it Discrimination if Your Employer Fails to Provide a Reasonable Accommodation for an Employee With a Disability?
According to the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, determining which accommodations are reasonable should be an interactive process between the employee and the current or prospective employer. Employers have a responsibility to provide accommodations when an employee or job applicant discloses that they have a disability or when the employer has reason to believe that the employee needs accommodations, such as when an employee exhausts their unpaid leave. If an employee requests accommodations, the employer must respond in a timely manner.
According to California law, failure to provide reasonable accommodations for an employee with a disability is employment discrimination. These are some ways that it can manifest itself:
- Refusing to hire a job applicant who has disclosed a disability or requested accommodations
- Failure to respond in a timely manner to an employee’s request for a reasonable accommodation
- Retaliating against an employee who has requested an accommodation or filed a discrimination complaint, such as by terminating the employee’s employment or reducing their pay
The best way to ensure that the interactive process of requesting and receiving reasonable accommodations goes well is to work with the San Diego employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP from the beginning. Your lawyer can also help you file a complaint against an employer who has failed to provide the reasonable accommodation that you requested.
Contact a California Employment Lawyer About Disability Accommodations
An employment discrimination lawyer can help you successfully complete the interactive process of requesting disability accommodations in your California workplace. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in San Diego, California to set up a consultation.