Workplace discrimination based on both physical and mental disabilities is prohibited in the state of California, but this does not mean that an employer is obligated to hire someone with a disability if they are unable to perform necessary job duties. Rather, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations so long as the employee in question meets the criteria of the position. For example, a person who uses a wheelchair would not be able to work as a security guard, as walking the premises is a necessary job duty. However, a person who uses a wheelchair would absolutely be able to work as an accountant in an office, since ambulation is not necessary for performing the job well. In this situation, the employer would be expected to provide a desk that is fully accessible for their employee in a wheelchair.
What Constitutes Disability Accommodations
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, an employer is required to provide reasonable accommodations that would allow qualified employees with disabilities to comfortably and effectively perform the job despite disabilities. So long as the accommodation in question does not cause undue hardship for the employer, they are legally required to provide whatever their disabled employee reasonably needs.
For example, an employee with a psychiatric disability may have a hard time processing verbal instructions or remembering what was said in meetings. In this scenario, the employee should be issued a tape recorder for reviewing meetings and training sessions. This accommodation is reasonable and does not create an undue hardship for the employer.
Employee Disabilities and the Interactive Process
The interactive process is the process by which the disabled employee and their employer should work together to determine what accommodations will work best for their unique situation. It consists of five steps:
- The employer analyzes the specific job in question in order to determine essential duties and functions.
- The employer and employee work together to identify barriers that would hinder the employee from performing essential job functions.
- The employer comes up with a range of accommodations aimed at reducing or eliminating the barriers identified in step two.
- The employer takes employee preference into consideration and determines whether or not the various accommodations would pose an undue hardship.
- The accommodations are provided to the employee.
Pregnancy Disability Leave
If a pregnant woman is unable to perform essential job duties due to her pregnancy or a pregnancy-related medical condition, then she is entitled to go on temporary disability leave.