Disability Allowances at Work


Q. I have an illness and require accommodations at work. What are my rights?

A. California law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees due to a disability, which includes failing to reasonably accommodate a disability.

Once an employer has notice of a potential need to accommodate, it is required to engage in a good-faith interactive process to determine whether a reasonable accommodation exists. An interactive process simply means communication between employer and employee (or the employee’s health care provider) about work limitations and how they might be accommodated. Both the employer and the employee are required to participate in the interactive process in good faith to determine a reasonable accommodation.

A reasonable accommodation is a measure that would allow a disabled employee to perform the essential functions of the job without causing undue hardship on the employer. Reasonable accommodations may include adjusting a work space, buying or modifying equipment, adjusting work policies, modifying a work schedule or providing or extending an unpaid leave of absence

If you are able to perform the essential functions of your job with reasonable accommodation, in most circumstances, your employer must return you to your job. Essential job functions refer to the fundamental job duties of an individual position. A function is typically regarded as essential if the position exists, in whole or in part, to perform that function.

An employer may deny an accommodation based on undue hardship if it shows that the accommodation requires significant difficulty or expense to the employer’s business operations.

While an employer must provide an accommodation unless it causes undue hardship, it is not, however, obligated to provide you with your preferred accommodation. Your employer has the discretion to choose a different accommodation as long as it is also reasonable and effective. Your employer is also not required to create a position or remove an employee from his or her position to accommodate you.

If you believe you are able to do your job with reasonable accommodation and your employer refuses to return you to work, you should consult with an attorney to explore potential remedies.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is generalized and not for purposes of providing legal advice.

Bobby Shukla represents individuals in employment law matters. She can be reached at (415) 986-1338.   

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