Various federal and state laws protect disable workers and require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to their employees. Under federal laws, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”) require any private employer that has an employment relationship with fifteen (15) or more individuals for each working day in 20 or more weeks during the year to comply with disability discrimination laws.
However, California’s counterpart, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), is broader and applies to any employer with five or more employees. Thus, a small business with five or more employees must be vigilant in assessing and modifying the working conditions of its disabled employees. An employer risks violating FEHA if it fails to make reasonable accommodation for an employee’s known physical disability OR fails to engage in a good faith interactive process with the employee to determine an effective reasonable accommodation for the employee upon request.
However, the accommodation requirements are not without exceptions. Under California laws, an employer may refuse to hire or may discharge an employee if, even with reasonable accommodations, the employee, because of his or her physical or mental disability or medical condition, either is unable to perform his or her essential duties or cannot perform them without endangering the health or safety of the employee or others. Also, the employer or other covered entity is not required to make an accommodation that is demonstrated to produce undue hardship to its operation. Nonetheless, the employer or other entity must “engage in a timely, good faith, interactive process with the employee or applicant to determine effective, reasonable accommodations, if any, in response to a request for reasonable accommodation by an employee or applicant with a known physical or mental disability or known medical condition.”
As such, when your workforce includes an individual with a disability, you must first determine what type of accommodation is necessary and whether such accommodations can be implemented without affecting the employee’s essential duties, endangering the health or safety of others or without incurring undue hardship. The determination is not simple and requires the evaluation of current laws. Our law office can help your business comply with federal and state disability accommodation requirements. Contact us today for a consultation.
****The opinion above is not intended to be legal advice and absolutely does not create
any attorney-client relationship between its author and the readers. Please consult an attorney for information or advice specific to your legal issue.****
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