Responding to an employee’s request for reasonable accommodation

On Behalf of | May 26, 2023 | Business Law

As an employer, you are legally obligated to provide reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities to help them perform essential functions of their job. It aligns with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

Reasonable accommodation refers to adjustments or modifications at the workplace to enable individuals with disabilities to do their job and have equal opportunities at the workplace. It may include modifying work schedules, job duties, physical workspace, equipment or policies.

Here is what you need to do when an employee requests reasonable accommodation at the workplace.

Ask for relevant information

You have the right to ask for appropriate information from the employee or the applicant to determine if there is a medical need for an accommodation and how the requested accommodation would meet that need. 

You can ask for a description of the medical condition, how it affects the ability to perform the job, how the accommodation would help and how long it would be needed. You can also request medical documentation if necessary.

Initiate an interactive process

California law requires employers to initiate an interactive interaction with an employee who requests a reasonable accommodation. As such, you should communicate with the employee to explore possible options for accommodation.

While you do not have to provide the exact accommodation requested, you should try to find a solution that works for everyone by considering the nature of the job, the cost and availability of the accommodation and the impact on your operations.

Make an informed decision

After evaluating the information and options, you should decide whether to provide or deny the accommodation. You should inform the employee or the applicant of your decision in writing and explain why. 

If you provide the accommodation, you should implement it as soon as possible. If you deny it, you should state how it would cause undue hardship on your business.

Protect your business interests

You may face legal and financial penalties for denying a valid request for a reasonable accommodation as it violates state and federal anti-discrimination laws. As such, it is best to learn more about the law regarding reasonable accommodation at the workplace to guide your decisions and safeguard your business interests.


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