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Reasonable accommodation, the interactive process and your employer

Posted on July 30, 2017 | Firm News,Retaliation

Last week, we began discussing how one of the primary advantages of calling the Golden State home is the comprehensive legal protection granted to residents, particularly as it relates to employment. By way of illustration, we began discussing the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

In particular, we began discussing how absent extreme hardship, the FEHA requires employers with five or more employees to provide their disabled individuals with reasonable accommodations enabling them to perform their duties. We’ll continue this important discussion in today’s post, examining an employer’s responsibilities as it relates to the “interactive process.”

The interactive process refers to the individualized evaluation undertaken by employers to reconcile the physical or mental limitations of an individual employee with the requirements of their position that are directly related to the need for reasonable accommodation.

In other words, the interactive process involves an examination of the critical functions of the job, whether the disabled employee can perform these critical functions and, if not, what changes must be made to their work environment and/or work process.

State law dictates that the interactive process must be initiated in either of the following circumstances:

  • The employee makes a formal request for reasonable accommodations; or
  • The employer becomes aware of the need for reasonable accommodations either through observation, a third party, or the employee’s exhaustion of leave benefits.

It’s important to note that any failure by an employer to undertake the interactive process in a timely, good faith manner is considered unlawful under the above-discussed law.

What all of this serves to underscore is that you do have the right to request reasonable accommodations under state law if you have been diagnosed with a physical or mental condition that otherwise limits a major life activity.

As such, if you believe your employer has retaliated against you for making such a request — or for exercising your rights in any other capacity — you should strongly consider consulting with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.