Having a disability does not have to limit an individual’s potential, especially when it comes to being gainfully employed. Although no one chooses to have a disability, it does not have to restrict individuals who wish to be a productive force in the workplace.
Fortunately for California workers, there are a number of both federal and state laws that not only protect workers from on-the-job discrimination or wrongful termination, but also require employers to provide accommodations that will help them to fulfill their job duties. Disabled workers in Southern California who are concerned about whether their place of employment is following the law may want to find out more about these protections.
What disabilities do the laws protect?
Several California laws not only define what conditions or disabilities are protected, but also require that employers make accommodations that will allow these workers to perform their duties. These laws recognize a disability as any condition that limits major life activities. The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) defines two main categories of disabilities that may be mental or physical, and also protects individuals with certain medical conditions:
- Medical condition includes cancer or genetic predisposition to a disease or disorder
- Physical condition may include limitations due to blindness, loss of limbs, broken bones, epilepsy, heart disease, back injuries or brain tumors
- Mental disability includes retardation, learning disabilities, alcoholism, or depression
An employer with five or more employers must provide a reasonable accommodation that will assist the worker to perform their job functions.
In addition, these laws protect a worker from being fired who has recently been injured and requests an accommodation. However, if the accommodation puts an undue burden on the employer, or if the worker cannot fully recover once medical leave is over, the employer may have cause to terminate them.
What is a reasonable accommodation?
The FEHA requires employers with five or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations for employees who are applying for a job or who are already employed and request an accommodation. The California Department of General Services (DGS) defines a reasonable accommodation (RA) as a logical change to the work environment that will allow a qualified disabled worker to perform their job functions.
Some RA’s an employer may provide include:
- Providing mechanical or electrical aids or ergonomic workspaces
- Flexible work schedules
- Leave for medical care
- Changed job assignments
- Relocation of a work area
The employer must initiate an interactive process that includes an assessment of the required accommodation, whether it may involve changing job functions or the limitations that are preventing the individual from performing their job function.