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Reasonable Accommodation Lawyer Serving Southern California
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California law requires employers to reasonably accommodate employees with a physical or mental disability so that they can perform the essential functions of the job. Sadly, some employers prefer to terminate disabled employees rather than comply with the law. Contact Ortiz Law Office today for a free consultation with a reasonable accommodation lawyer.
What is a reasonable accommodation?
California and Federal law require employers to provide a reasonable accommodation to disabled employees that will allow the employee to perform the essential functions of the job. “The essence of the concept of reasonable accommodation is that, in certain instances, employers must make special adjustments to their policies for individuals with disabilities.” McAlindin v. County of San Diego, 192 F. 3d 1226, 1236 (9th Cir. 1999). Thus, facially neutral policies must be adjusted to accommodate the disabled.
The Interactive Process
Employers have a duty to engage in an “interactive process” with a disabled employee once the employer is aware of the employee’s need for accommodation. The interactive process is an informal process designed to identify a reasonable accommodation that will enable the employee to perform his or her job effectively.
The Duty To Accommodate
The duty to reasonably accommodate is triggered even if the employee never expressly requests an accommodation. Knowledge can be inferred under the circumstances, and may be proven by evidence the employee told the employer about the disability, or that the employer learned of it third hand or through observation. An employer can have knowledge of an employee’s disability if it does not know the employee’s diagnosis or the name of the disability.
Examples of Reasonable Accommodations
Reasonable accommodations can include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Changing job duties
- Providing unpaid leave for medical care
- Changing work schedules
- Relocating the work area
- Providing mechanical or electrical aids
- Distributing non-essential job duties to other employees
Frequently Asked Questions
California law prohibits discrimination against individuals who have a “physical disability, mental disability or medical condition.”
“Physical disability” includes, but is not limited to, all of the following:
(1) Having any physiological disease, disorder, condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss that does both of the following:
(A) Affects one or more of the following body systems: neurological, immunological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory, including speech organs, cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, hemic and lymphatic, skin, and endocrine.
(B) Limits a major life activity.
“Mental disability” includes, but is not limited to, all of the following:
(1) Having any mental or psychological disorder or condition, such as intellectual disability, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, or specific learning disabilities, that limits a major life activity. For purposes of this section:
(A) “Limits” shall be determined without regard to mitigating measures, such as medications, assistive devices, or reasonable accommodations, unless the mitigating measure itself limits a major life activity.
(B) A mental or psychological disorder or condition limits a major life activity if it makes the achievement of the major life activity difficult.
“Medical condition” means either of the following:
(1) Any health impairment related to or associated with a diagnosis of cancer or a record or history of cancer.
(2) Genetic characteristics. For purposes of this section, “genetic characteristics” means either of the following:
(A) Any scientifically or medically identifiable gene or chromosome, or combination or alteration thereof, that is known to be a cause of a disease or disorder in a person or that person’s offspring, or that is determined to be associated with a statistically increased risk of development of a disease or disorder, and that is presently not associated with any symptoms of any disease or disorder.
(B) Inherited characteristics that may derive from the individual or family member, that are known to be a cause of a disease or disorder in a person or that person’s offspring, or that are determined to be associated with a statistically increased risk of development of a disease or disorder, and that are presently not associated with any symptoms of any disease or disorder.
Deafness, blindness, intellectual disability, partially or completely missing limbs, mobility impairments requiring use of a wheelchair, autism, cancer, cerebral palsy, diabetes, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, major depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and schizophrenia.
Source: 29 CFR § 1630.2(j)(3)(iii).
- chronic or episodic conditions such as HIV/AIDS;
- seizure disorder;
- multiple sclerosis; and
- heart disease.
Source: Cal. Gov. Code § 12926.1(c); 2 CCR § 11065(d)(2)(C).
- Back injuries that impair working or other major life activities.
Source: Colmenares v. Braemar Country Club, Inc., 29 Cal. 4th 1019, 1024 (2003).
Source: Bagatti v. Department of Rehabilitation, 97 Cal. App. 4th 344, 354 (2002).
- Wrist injury resulting in restrictions on lifting, pulling and pushing.
Source: Hanson v. Lucky Stores, Inc., 74 Cal. App. 4th 215, 220 (1999).
- Hypertension and high blood pressure.
Source: American Nat’l Ins. Co. v. Fair Employment & Housing Comm’n, 32 Cal. 3d 603, 610 1982.
- Panic attacks that leave employee temporarily unable to perform job duties to heart palpitations and other symptoms.
Source: Roby v. McKesson Corp., 47 Cal. 4th 686, 694-95 (2009).
- Lost wages and benefits
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering from physical injury or exacerbation of pre-existing physical conditions
- Other economic losses like medical expenses, moving expenses, and job search expenses
- Punitive damages to punish private employers in extreme cases
- Attorney’s fees under some laws
- Reinstatement in some cases
While unpaid leave can be a reasonable accommodation, it has been described by courts as the “accommodation of last resort.” If other accommodations are available that would permit the employee to continue working, then the employer must offer one of those accommodations.
This is not a valid reason for denying a reasonable accommodation. In fact, it is a tacit admission of disability discrimination. The employer must offer a reasonable accommodation if one is available, it would not cause undue hardship, and it would not create a threat to the heath and safety to others.
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This website is an advertisement for legal services. The information provided on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. An attorney-client relationship does not begin until a formal written contract is signed. If you have legal questions or need legal advice, you should contact an attorney. Nothing contained in this website should be construed as a guarantee or promise of results. Past case results are not indicative of future results and are presented for informational purposes only. The case results presented herein are from cases that Brandon Ortiz had primary day-to-day responsibility for prior to founding Ortiz Law Office, Inc.