In California, employees are entitled to certain rights in the workplace. For example, employed individuals have the right to a work in a safe environment free of discrimination and harassment, a reasonable right to privacy, and the right to not be retaliated against if they choose to file a complaint or report an act of misconduct.

Still, the mere existence of legal protections isn’t enough to help mistreated employees, as workers must understand and exercise their workplace rights accordingly if they wish to benefit from them. In the case that an employee is disabled by a chronic condition, it’s especially important to understand their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA. This federal law requires employers to reasonably accommodate disabled employees in the workplace.

What accommodations are considered “reasonable” under state and federal employment laws? Keep reading to learn how to request workplace accommodations from a California employer under the ADA.

What Is a “Reasonable Accommodation” under the ADA?

Under the ADA, a “reasonable accommodation” is an adjustment or change to a job or work environment that enables an employee with a disability to perform their job duties, access the workplace, and enjoy the same benefits and privileges of employment as their fellow employees without disabilities.

There are numerous ways that California employers can fulfill their legal obligations by reasonably accommodating the needs of disabled employees. Common examples of reasonable accommodations in the workplace include:

  • Making adjustments to the physical environment – Such changes may include rearranging desks or chairs, installing curb ramps or other means of accessibility, and modifying the layout of the workspace.
  • Revising practices and procedures – These accommodations may entail allowing employees more opportunities to work remotely, modifying a company policy to allow service animals, adjusting work hours to allow disabled employees to attend medical appointments, or providing more frequent breaks.
  • Providing accessibility to assistive technologies – Reasonable accommodations can include the provision of adapted computers, modified equipment, and assistive technologies, such as text-to-speech translations or screen reading software.

Can My Boss Deny My ADA Request?

It depends. For the most part, employers are legally obligated to grant employee requests for reasonable accommodations under the ADA. However, there is an exception to this rule, as companies can lawfully deny requests for reasonable accommodations if it poses an “undue hardship” or undue burden to the employer or company.

As you can imagine, the term “undue hardship” can leave room for ambiguity and varying interpretations, making it all the more important for employees to consult with a qualified employment law attorney. Your lawyer can use their in-depth knowledge of employment law to ensure that you receive the accommodations you need and deserve at work.

4 Steps to Ask for ADA Accommodations at Work

To receive reasonable accommodations in the workplace, it’s critical for employees to follow all legal processes meticulously, as one misstep can result in the automatic denial of your application and result in time-consuming roadblocks. Here are 4 steps California employees can take to ask their employer for a reasonable accommodation under the ADA:

1. Take adequate time to prepare.

From researching employment laws to understanding their rights as California employees, there are various ways that workers can prepare to request workplace accommodations under the ADA. First and foremost, it’s crucial to secure representation from an experienced employment lawyer, as they can guide your steps throughout the legal process and ensure that you’re prepared.

When preparing to file a formal request for workplace accommodations, petitioners can benefit from:

  • Reviewing company policies – It’s important to understand any company policies related to disability and workplace accommodations under the ADA.
  • Getting familiar with legal processes and procedures – Familiarizing yourself with the filing process, ADA regulations, applicable labor laws, and other legal procedures can help maximize your chance of success when preparing to request reasonable accommodations in the workplace.
  • Fortifying your case with sufficient proof – Your lawyer can collaborate with you to collect and organize all evidence that is relevant to your case. Examples include medical documentation, clinic notes, evaluations by physicians and healthcare providers, personal statements, or symptom logs.

2. Submit your formal request in writing.

Requests for reasonable accommodations in the workplace must be made in writing. They must clearly define what the employee is asking for and why it’s necessary to their overall performance at work. When making their request, it’s essential for employees to include as much specific information as possible, especially regarding how the requested accommodation will help them perform their job effectively to company standards.

3. Follow up with your employer.

After submitting the ADA request in writing, employees should follow up with their employer as needed to discuss why the accommodation is appropriate and work to negotiate a fair arrangement that both parties can agree on. Establishing these principles early on can help ensure that both the employer and employee understand their obligations, know what to expect, and ideally come up with a mutually beneficial solution.

4. Seek representation from a trusted employment lawyer.

Assistance from a trusted employment lawyer will be an invaluable resource to any employee filing for reasonable workplace accommodations under the ADA, especially in the event that the initial request is ignored or denied. While requesting reasonable accommodations under the ADA isn't always easy, seeking help from an accomplished employment law attorney can help workers to assert their rights and receive the support and care they deserve in the workplace.

Passionately Representing Wronged Workers in California

Discussing your disability with a boss or manager is rarely a fun conversation. While it can be uncomfortable to disclose a chronic or disabling condition to your employers, it’s crucial for California workers to understand their options when it comes to requesting reasonable accommodations at work.

While some employees are lucky enough to receive reasonable accommodations without pushback, many companies can be oblivious or ignorant when it comes to honoring their legal obligations under state employment laws and federal regulations under the ADA and U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

If your employee rights were violated in the workplace, it’s imperative to turn to a trusted employment lawyer who can hold your employer accountable for their unlawful actions. Attorney Bill Marder has a longstanding reputation for providing passionate and aggressive advocacy to wronged workers in Monterey County and beyond. With over 25 years of experience, our firm can fight to restore your workplace rights and peace of mind.

No one deserves to be mistreated in the workplace. Exercise your employee rights by calling (888) 796-4010 to schedule a free consultation.

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