Reasonable Accommodation and Interactive Process under FEHA

Under California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), an employer must make “reasonable accommodation” for individuals with known disabilities unless it can demonstrate that doing so would be an undue hardship on the business. Failure to make a reasonable accommodation is itself an unlawful practice than can give rise to a civil suit and damages under FEHA.

Under the law, the employer must engage in a timely, good faith, interactive process to determine effective reasonable accommodation. Reasonable accommodation may, but does not necessarily include the following: making existing facilities readily accessible to and usual by individuals with disabilities, such as wheelchair users; restructuring job schedules and responsibilities to allow an employee to attend medical appointments or reduce work load; acquiring or modifying equipment or devices, such as ergonomic chairs and keyboards, etc. Further, the employer has affirmative duty to inform a disabled employee of other job opportunities and lean whether the employee is interested in and qualified for them.

It is important to remember that an employer is not obligated to choose the best accommodation or the one sought by the employee. Rather, the employer has the ultimate discretion to choose among effective accommodations.

Further, under FEHA the employer does not have to provide reasonable accommodation if the employee or job applicant cannot perform the essential duties of the job, even with an accommodation. In that case, the employer can discharge or refuse to hire the individual.