REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS AND LEAVES

CALIFORNIA ACCOMMODATIONS AND LEAVES

California law requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations to those with physical or mental disabilities.  A reasonable accommodation helps employees complete the essential functions of their job.  California companies with five or more employees must make reasonable accommodations for employees unless doing so would cause an undue hardship to the employer.  If you were denied a reasonable accommodation or your employer has failed to meaningfully engage in the interactive process, you may have a legal claim.

TYPES OF REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS

Accommodations allow an employee to work with a physical or mental disability or during pregnancy.  Reasonable accommodations take many forms, but commonly include basic changes to an employee’s position:

  • Changing job duties or responsibilities
  • Providing leave for medical care
  • Changing work schedules or start and end times
  • Relocating the employee’s work area
  • Allowing work from home
  • Providing mechanical or electrical aids
  • Allowing more time to complete projects

Failure to provide any of these requests may also serve as a basis for an unlawful disability discrimination or harassment claim, depending on the circumstances.

THE INTERACTIVE PROCESS

Once an employer knows that an applicant or employee needs a reasonable accommodation, the company must discuss the employee’s options in an “interactive process.”  The employer must take meaningful steps to help the employee perform his or her job.  This requires timely, good faith communications.  The focus should be on how you can complete your duties in light of your temporary or permanent limitations.

This process helps people stay in their job with an accommodation.  Employers must make an individualized assessment that looks at the job responsibilities as well as the individual’s mental or physical limitations.  Companies must inform you of their decision.  They must give you an explanation for any denial.  Employers must also keep your medical information confidential.  Under California law, they cannot retaliate against you for requesting an accommodation or leave.

UNPAID LEAVE AS AN ACCOMMODATION

If an employee is unable to perform essential job duties, the law considers unpaid leave as a reasonable accommodation.  In many cases, a physical or mental limitation may subdue over time.  Unpaid leave allows the employee to recovery at home and return to work when ready.  Employers do not need to provide indefinite leave, but must make a meaningful effort to accommodate you.

DAMAGES FOR FAILURE TO PROVIDE AN ACCOMMODATION

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act allows individuals to recover losses due to an employer’s misconduct.  Failure to accommodate an employee or applicant or engage in the interactive process exposes the company to a range of potential damages:

  • Back pay (for lost earnings)
  • Front pay (for future lost earnings)
  • Lost bonuses and commissions
  • Lost benefits (dental, medical, vision, etc.)
  • Lost pensions and retirement earnings
  • Hiring and reinstatement
  • Out-of-pocket expenses
  • Medical expenses
  • Policy changes
  • Emotional distress damages
  • Punitive damages
  • Attorney’s fees and costs
  • Interest
  • Injunctive relief

As a San Diego-based law firm that specializes in disability and pregnancy-related cases, we understand your rights and can help recover your losses.

FERRARO EMPLOYMENT LAW CAN HELP

If you believe that your employer has denied an accommodation or has taken steps to terminate you shortly after you requested an accommodation, contact us today to discuss your case with Nicholas J. Ferraro, a San Diego lawyer who specializes in reasonable accommodation and disability cases.