How to Determine if an Employee is Entitled to Reasonable Accommodation Under the FEHA

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) protects employment discrimination on the basis of a number of disabilities, including physical, mental, and medical. The FEHA requires employers who employ five or more workers to make “reasonable accommodation” for the known disabilities of applicants and employees to enable them to perform a position’s essential functions, unless doing so would produce undue hardship to the employer’s operations.

Defining Reasonable Accommodation

A reasonable accommodation is implemented in response to a disability an employee may be experiencing. It is is any change to the way a job is done or to the work environment it’s done in that’s executed specifically to enable an otherwise qualified employee to perform his or her essential job functions. The catch: those changes must not create undue hardship for an employer. In other words, reasonable accommodations are changes an employer can make to help an employee work more effectively that do not create an unrealistic standard burden for the employer to meet. 


Who Can Request an FEHA Accommodation

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the FEHA’s federal counterpart, only certain people are qualified to request a reasonable accommodation. In order to be eligible for a request, an individual must meet the definition of a person with a disability. A person with a “disability” is defined as anyone with “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” 


However, the FEHA provides broader protection than the ADA in certain areas. The FEHA allows for diagnoses that aren’t eligible for disability status under the ADA, including stress, anxiety, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, frequent urination, and PTSD. In order to be eligible under the FEHA, an employee must meet one of the following qualifications:


  • Have a physical or mental condition limiting a major life activity
  • Have a record or history of a condition
  • Is regarded as having an impairment and subjected to discrimination as a result of the perceived impairment.


What is Considered Reasonable?

The key to an FEHA accommodation lies in the word “reasonable.” While employers are expected to address the needs of their employees, that does not necessarily mean there aren’t protections built into the FEHA to ensure that those accommodations don’t get out of hand., An employer does not have to provide an accommodation that would cause an “undue hardship” to the employer. 


Undue hardship is defined as a situation where “a specific reasonable accommodation would cause significant difficulty or expense.” This determination depends on factors such as:


  • The nature and cost of the accommodation needed
  • The financial resources of the facility making the reasonable accommodation
  • The overall size of the company
  • The impact of the accommodation on the operation of the facility


Types of Reasonable Accommodations

Selection of an appropriate accommodation is an individualized process depending on the limitations of the employee’s disability. The FEHA provides a nonexhaustive list of possible accommodations, including:

  • Making facilities readily accessible to and usable by disabled individuals (e.g. providing accessible break rooms, restrooms, training rooms or reserved parking places, acquiring or modifying furniture, equipment or devises or other similar adjustments);
  • Job restructuring;
  • Offering party-time or modified work schedules;
  • Reassigning to a vacant position;
  • Acquiring or modifying equipment or devices;
  • Adjusting or modifying examinations, training materials or policies;
  • Providing qualified readers or interpreters;
  • Allowing assistive animals on the worksite;
  • Altering when and/or how an essential function is performed;
  • Modifying supervisory methods;
  • Providing additional training;
  • Permitting an employee to work from home;
  • Providing paid or unpaid leave for treatment and recovery;
  • Other similar accommodations for individuals with disabilities.

Contact Gokal Law

Are you qualified to receive a reasonable accommodation pursuant to the FEHA? Contact Jibit Cinar of Cepkinian-Cinar Law.

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