California Fair Employment and Housing Act requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for workers with a disability. Yet, as every employee and every company is different, it can be hard to pin down how far this goes.
Making accommodations can cost time and money employers may not want to spend. That can leave employees feeling badly treated. Who is right?
Employers must look at each case individually
You and your co-worker might both have an issue with your hip. That does not mean they affect you to the same degree or that you require the same solutions.
Employers must look at how each person’s disability affects their ability to fulfill their role. So, if your co-worker spends his days programming in the back office and you spend yours walking about the site meeting customers, it stands to reason that you may need more accommodations than your employer previously made for him. Assuming what they did for your co-worker to accommodate their needs should also be enough for you is not acceptable.
Some employers need to meet higher standards than others
The law does not expect a company to bankrupt itself in the process of providing accommodation for employees with disabilities. That is why it looks at “reasonable” accommodations. A mom-and-pop store with one part-time employee may be able to refuse changes expected of a multi-national with 5,000 employees in one office.
Accommodation is a two-way process
Even though California requires employers to initiate an interactive process once they become aware you may need accommodations, you can bring it up first. You should also do your best to help them understand your exact needs.
If your employer refuses to make the reasonable accommodations you require, that might not be the end of the story. Consider legal help to see if their refusal is reasonable or not.