Most Common Disabilities Under FEHA And How Employers Should Accommodate Them
The federal Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) gives disabled job applicants and employees protection against being discriminated against based on their disability, and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) gives them even more protections. Employers are prohibited from not hiring an applicant due to a disability or denying a worker a raise, promotion, or other benefit of employment because he is disabled.
Furthermore, employers in California have a duty to make a reasonable accommodation of an applicant’s or employee’s disability unless it would cause them undue hardship. Common ways employers can make a job easier for a disabled worker to perform include:
- Making the workplace accessible and usable.
- Changing the person’s responsibilities or work schedule.
- Reassigning the person to a vacant position that is more suitable to his needs.
- Modifying or providing equipment or devices to assist the worker in doing his job.
- Modifying tests or training materials.
- Providing a qualified interpreter or reader.
- Providing other accommodations based on the worker’s disability.
What Are Common Disabilities Employers Must Accommodate?
Under the FEHA, a disability is defined as “an impairment that makes performance of a major life activity difficult.” This is much broader than the definition under the ADA, protecting many more disabled workers. Some common protected disabilities and ways employers can accommodate them include:
- Back and spinal injuries. These are often caused by repetitive movements, lifting too much, car and work accidents, and more. Workers who must lift at their job can be accommodated by limiting their lifting or transferring them to another job that does not require lifting.
- Mental or psychological impairments. These account for a large number of claims for disability protections and include mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, manic depression, or other psychological problems. While it can be challenging to accommodate this type of disability, employers are required to do so. Ways that this disability can be accommodated include job modifications, transfer of some of the employee’s duties to other workers, or a job transfer to a more appropriate position that is available.
- Limb disabilities. These include disabilities to a person’s arms, hands, legs, or feet. An example is carpel tunnel syndrome. An employer could accommodate a worker who can no longer stand by moving him to another position that does not require standing or provide more frequent breaks. A worker who must type might be accommodated by offering typing lessons to help with the problem, modifying his work station, or transferring the worker to another job duty requiring less typing.
- Neurological impairments. If a worker suffers from a neurological disorder like epilepsy, severe migraines, or other nervous system disorders, he can still be a productive employee with accommodations. Adjustments the employer could make include adjusting the worker’s schedule so he does not have to drive at night or providing him with a flexible schedule based on his needs due to his disability.
- Heart conditions. Some heart conditions can cause a person to become disabled, especially if he works in a physically demanding profession. Limiting heavy lifting is a reasonable accommodation an employee can expect an employer to make.
- Substance abuse. An employer is not required to accommodate illegal drug use, but is expected to accommodate alcoholism by taking actions like giving the worker an extended leave while he receives treatment for his addiction. However, an employer is not required to allow a worker to be intoxicated on the job.
- Diabetes. Employers could work with their employees who suffer with this by changing the rules, facilities, or terms of employment to accommodate the employee’s disability.
- Hearing and vision impairment. Many reasonable accommodations can be utilized to accommodate hearing or vision loss, such as providing computer technology that could assist with reading or hearing. What would be needed would depend on the person’s job duties and needs.
- Blood disorders. If a person suffers with a blood disorder, the employer must treat the situation appropriately so that the person does not pass on a disease. Transferring an employee out of a position where he handles food could be a reasonable accommodation.
Many accommodations do not take much effort and are not expensive, which makes disability discrimination even more unjust.
Do you believe your employer or a prospective employer failed to accommodate your disability? The Law Offices of Corbett H. Williams are here to help you enforce your important rights and obtain the compensation you could deserve. Speak with an Irvine employment lawyer today at 949-679-9909 to discuss your situation in a free, no-obligation consultation.