Special Guest Blog by Attorney Andrea W.S. Paris: An Employer’s Responsibility to Accomodate Disabled Employees

Posted by on Oct 28, 2011 in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Issues, Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Issues | 73 comments

Today I bring you a special guest blog by attorney Andrea W.S. Paris, who focuses her Newport Beach-based legal practice in the areas of Employment Law, Estate Planning, and Civil Litigation.  Ms. Paris authors an informative blog on issues related to her areas of practice through her law firm website, The Law Offices of Andrea W.S. Paris.  Here is Ms. Paris’ guest article:

A study done by Harvard University indicates that medical expenses is the leading cause of personal bankruptcies.  The second leading cause of bankruptcies is job loss.  These statistics lead me to ask how many people who are in bankruptcy or considering bankruptcy found themselves in this situation because they got sick and lost their jobs over it.  Which lead me to
this blog post regarding an employer’s responsibility to accommodate employees who are sick or disabled.  

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), and its federal counterpart the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), prohibit an employer from discriminating against certain qualified individuals on the basis of disability (physical or mental) or medical condition in any aspect of the employment relationship.  To be protected, an individual must have a physical or mental condition that limits a major life activity.  The ability to work is considered a major life activity.  

Furthermore, an employer must make reasonable acommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified applicant or employee, unless the employer can prove that accommodation would cause an undue hardship on the operation of its business.  An employer’s interaction with an employee could be considered discriminatory even if that was not the employer’s intention. 

What is a reasonable accommodation?

“Reasonable accommodation” under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) has been interpreted to mean a modification or adjustment to the workplace that enables an employee to perform the essential functions of the job held or desired. The following are examples of some reasonable accommodations disabled employees may be entitled to.  However, what accommodation is reasonable must be determined on a case-by-case basis.

  • Leave of absence;
  • Part-time or modified work schedule;
  • Making facilities accessible;
  • Providing necessary equipment or devises;
  • Adjusting or modifying examinations;
  • Providing qualified readers or interpreters;
  • Alcohol or drug rehabilitation; or
  • Reassignment of employee to a vacant position.

Employers who fail to reasonably accommodate qualified employees could be held financially responsible for such violations.

What is the interactive process?

 California employers also have a duty to engage in a good faith “interactive process,” which is essentially a duty to communicate with and engage in an exploration of possible accommodations with the goal of identifying an accommodation that allows the employee to perform his or her job effectively.  In California, the duty to engage in the interactive process is separate from the duty to accommodate.  Thus, an employer who fails to engage in the interactive process may be liable for a FEHA violation, even if it is determined that no
reasonable accommodation was available. 

Tip for Employees:  If you have a physical, mental, or medical condition that is interfering with your ability to perform your job you should consult with a physician to determine the extent of your limitations.  Start a dialogue with your employer regarding your limitations and determine together with your employer what accommodations, if any, are available that would allow you to return to work.  If your employer refuses to engage in the interactive process, retaliates, or terminates you because of your disability, you should consult with a qualified employment attorney.

73 Responses to “Special Guest Blog by Attorney Andrea W.S. Paris: An Employer’s Responsibility to Accomodate Disabled Employees”

  1. Thanks for sharing this great content, I really enjoyed the insign you bring to the topic, awesome stuff!

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