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Seeking reasonable accommodations on the job

You have the education, training and experience to qualify you for the job. However, you also have a disability. Whether you have lived all your life with your condition or recently suffered an accident or illness, you still have rights in the workplace.

California and federal laws prohibit an employer from discriminating against you because of your disability. If you have every qualification for the job, but may need your employer to make some reasonable allowances for you, you have the right to request an accommodation.

What is reasonable?

If you request an accommodation in the workplace, you are not asking for preferential treatment. You do not want your need for accommodations to place more work on your colleagues or create a hardship for your employer. In fact, your employer may deny your request if it creates an undue hardship, so your employer may consider the following when weighing your request:

  • What kind of accommodation are you seeking?
  • How much will it cost the company?
  • Does the company have the funds to honor the request?
  • Will the accommodations impact the resources and operations of the business?
  • Which areas of the business will such accommodations affect?

The definition of "reasonable" is different for every situation. If you work for a small company, it may not have the budget or resources to install an elevator, but they may be able to install a ramp that provides you an alternate way to reach your workspace.

Your role and your rights

Unless your disability is obvious, such as the use of a wheelchair, you should not expect your employer to know and understand the scope of your needs. You may hope that your employer will offer accommodations so you do not have to ask, but it may not be fair to assume he or she is denying your rights by not offering. Instead, you may find more success if you approach your employer with your request and include alternatives in case your original request seems unreasonable.

For example, if you need frequent time off for medical appointments or need to deal with the aftermath of cancer treatments, your employer may allow you to work remotely or stay later on days when you are feeling well. With respectful communication, you and your employer may develop a smooth working relationship. However, if your employer refuses to accommodate you or terminates you because of your request, you have the right to seek legal counsel.

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