• Tom Girardi

California requirements for your "reasonable accommodations"

Realistically, you probably cannot do some jobs because of your disability. For instance, if your disability requires you to use a wheelchair, you wouldn't be able to work on a construction site. On the other hand, having a disability does not mean that you can't perform the essential duties of many other jobs. Even so, you may need some sort of accommodation in order to do so.

If the California Fair Employment and Housing Act recognizes your disability, and there are at least five people working for your employer, your employer must provide you with a reasonable accommodation. How do you make certain you are getting a fair shake?

How do you start the conversation?

Once you let your employer know about your disability, the duty to consider providing you with a reasonable accommodation arises. Your employer may request medical documentation to support your contention if your disability is not an obvious one (such as the wheelchair example above). Thereafter, discussions can begin regarding what kind of accommodation you need in order to properly perform your essential job duties.

You should know that your employer can inform only those people within the company who need to know about your disability. In addition, the right to medical verification does not mean that the company can go through all of your medical records and health history. You still have the right to privacy. As long as an accommodation does not create an undue hardship on your employer, the two of you should be able to find a workable solution.

What constitutes an undue hardship?

Under California law, if the accommodation requires "significant difficulty or expense" on the part of your employer, the company does not have to comply. However, that does not mean that a less expensive and easier option does not exist. Determining an undue hardship involves looking at the following factors:

  • The company's financial resources

  • How providing the accommodation affects the operations, resources or finances of the company

  • The number of people employed by the company

  • The cost and nature of the accommodation

  • The size of the business compared to the number of employees

  • The location and type of the facility

  • The type of operation

  • The function and structure of its employees

The goal is to make sure that the company can continue to operate while still providing you with what you need in order to do your job. Problems generally arise when a company claims undue hardship when the accommodation you need would not create one. If this happens to you, it would be wise to gain an understanding of your rights and legal options since you may be a victim of discrimination.