Employers in California that have at least 15 employees are required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the ADA. One of the essential parts of the ADA is an employer’s obligation to provide reasonable accommodations for disabled workers.
What are reasonable accommodations?
Reasonable accommodations are changes to the work environment or job requirements that allow a worker with a disability to perform the job comfortably. An accommodation should allow a disabled worker to complete the basic functions of the job, even if they have to do some things differently than other workers. Failure to provide reasonable accommodations is considered workplace discrimination.
The employer has some rights as well. A work accommodation that is requested by a disabled worker must be reasonable for the employer. Reasonable means that the accommodation doesn’t cause the business an undue financial or logistical hardship.
Examples of reasonable accommodations
A worker with a disability must inform their employer about the specific aspect of the job that they cannot do without an accommodation. For example, a worker who is in a wheelchair may not be able to comfortably reach work materials that are up high. It would be reasonable to accommodate that worker by keeping their work materials on a low shelf.
Sometimes, a work accommodation involves rescheduling hours or being flexible about days off. A worker that has a chronic condition that requires frequent doctor’s visits might need a flexible work schedule even if the other workers’ schedules never change week to week. Providing reserved parking that is closest to the building is another reasonable accommodation for disabled workers.
What if an employer refuses to provide reasonable accommodations?
If an employer refuses to provide reasonable accommodations, it can be sued for discrimination. The disabled worker may file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. A former employee may take action against a discriminatory employer even if they were already forced to quit their job because of the lack of accommodations.