The law says that employers must provide “reasonable accommodation” for disability. But, what does that mean? In some cases, a reasonable accommodation may be nothing more than allowing you to take some time off work.This is true even if you are not entitled to medical leave because you have not been with your employer long enough or because it is small. Reasonable accommodation takes many forms. It can mean things like:
Disability accommodation can mean other things, too. Each case is unique, and the law is constantly changing. If you aren’t sure about a reasonable accommodation in your situation, it is best to talk with a lawyer.
Many people aren’t sure whether they qualify for a reasonable accommodation because they don’t see their “disability” as serious enough. People with a “disability” are not just people who cannot work or who collect benefits. Anyone who has a disease, injury, or impairment—even a minor one—has the right to be accommodated in the workplace.
You have the right to have your condition respected and accounted for, and even “helped along” by your employer. Even if your condition affects you infrequently, and even if it was only in your past, you may be a person with a “disability” and entitled to protection under the law.
Under California and federal laws, people have gotten reasonable accommodations for people with many types of physical disabilities, including:
Not all disabilities are physical. The law applies to people with mental disabilities, too. People have gotten reasonable accommodations for mental disabilities, including:
In some cases, the law requires that employers offer an employee a reasonable accommodation without the employee having to ask. However, studies have shown that employees are more likely to have an easier time getting an accommodation if they speak up.
If you have a disability and would like a reasonable accommodation, talking with your doctor is a good first step. You’ll want to have an in-depth understanding of your medical limitations and what that means for you at work. You’ll also want to review your workplace’s employee handbook. If there are guidelines for requesting a reasonable accommodation, follow them.
Sometimes it seems most convenient to talk with your employer in person, but written notification is the best way to go. Written notice should include things like the nature of your disability and how it affects your job. You will also need to explain the accommodation you are seeking so that you can perform your job’s essential functions.
The law allows your employer to ask you to prove your disability by showing reasonable supporting medical documentation. That doesn’t mean your entire medical record. It could mean a note from your doctor explaining your condition and needs, however.
If your employer is denying you an accommodation because they believe you are not entitled to it, they may, in fact, be wrong. Many human resources professionals do not have adequate training in this area, and they often mistakenly tell employees that they are not entitled to time off or other accommodations when they really are. Just because your company’s human resources manager told you that you are not entitled to leave or other accommodation does not mean that is true. Employers get this wrong all the time.
Too often, people do not realize that their disabilities qualify them for legal protection and do not take action even though their employer has broken the law. Before you decide that you do not qualify, contact a lawyer who can offer you an honest assessment and tell you whether your disability qualifies you for legal protection. You might have several options, including filing a formal complaint against your employer with an administrative agency. If that doesn’t work, you may also be able to file a lawsuit in court.
Of course, keep in mind that employers do not have to provide the exact accommodation you request from them. Your employer can choose a less expensive alternative, as long as it is appropriate. Employees need to act diligently and in good faith, working with their employers to find a solution that helps them perform the essential functions of their job.
You might be worried that talking with your employer about your disability and asking for a reasonable accommodation could backfire. Employers have a long history of firing workers for speaking up. However, the law protects you from retaliation by your employer.
If your employer retaliates against you for asking for a reasonable accommodation, you may be able to file a wrongful termination lawsuit. The law protects you no matter which form retaliation takes:
All of these are examples of unlawful employment retaliation. Retaliation can take other forms, too, so it’s best to talk with an attorney about your personal experience.
Even if you do not have a disability, the law protects you from discrimination based on perceived disability. In other words, if your employer believes you have a disability or physical or mental impairment and take negative action towards you, he or she is in violation of the law.
As a San Francisco disability discrimination attorney, Jeremy Pasternak can help you understand your rights, whether you are still employed or have been fired, and even if you have resigned. Acting quickly is essential. The last places strict deadlines on legal action. In most cases, you and your lawyer must file a formal complaint within one year of the date you were harmed. If you’re not sure whether too much time has passed, it’s much better to talk with a lawyer right away than to assume you can’t take legal action.