Table of Contents
- Failure to engage in the interactive process or provide a reasonable accommodation is illegal. Employers are obligated to engage in the “interactive process” with employees to find a “reasonable accommodation” in a variety of circumstances.
- Reasonable Accommodation
- Disability Accommodation
- Religious Accommodation
- Substance Abuse Accommodation
- Lactation Accommodation
- Illiteracy Accommodation
Failure to Accommodate
Failure to engage in the interactive process or provide a reasonable accommodation is illegal. Employers are obligated to engage in the “interactive process” with employees to find a “reasonable accommodation” in a variety of circumstances.
- A reasonable accommodation is an adjustment to the employee’s work environment that can enable the employee to perform the essential functions of the job. Nealy v. City of Santa Monica, 234 Cal.App.4th 359, 373 (2015). The type of adjustment will vary depending on the employee’s job and the nature of the disability.
- Whether a proposed accommodation is reasonable is a question of fact. Hanson v. Lucky Stores, Inc., 74 Cal.App.4th 215, 228 (1999).
- California law requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities unless it is an undue hardship. Government Code § 12940 (a), (m); Gelfo v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 140 Cal.App.4th 34, 54 (2006).
- This duty arises as soon as the employer knows of the disability. California Code of Regs., tit. 2 § 11068 (a).
- The Department of Fair Employment and Housing provides example documentation for the process.
- Employers must make reasonable accommodations for employee religious preferences. Government Code § 12940 (l).
Substance Abuse Accommodation
- Employees with substance abuse problems may have a right to a reasonable accommodation for them to participate in an alcohol or drug rehabilitation program. Labor Code §§ 1025-1028.
- A lactation break is a period of time during the work day for nursing mothers to express breast milk (i.e., a break to pump). Both state and federal laws require California employers to provide lactation breaks. Labor Code §§ 1030-1033; 29 U.S.C. § 207(r).
- Employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees who request a lactation accommodation or who attempt to express breast milk. Labor Code §§ 1031-1033.
- Though illiteracy is not a disability, employers with 25 or more employees must reasonably accommodate and assist an employee who reveals a problem of illiteracy and requests assistance. Labor Code § 1041(a). Assistance might include providing the employee with the locations of local literacy education programs or arranging for a literacy education provider to visit the workplace. Labor Code § 1041(b).
- If an employee needs time off from work to attend classes or seek other assistance, and that time off does not impose an undue hardship on you, strongly consider providing the employee with unpaid time off from work.