California Disability Discrimination: The ADA and FEHA

The law protects people with disabilities on the job.

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) protect qualified people with disabilities but who can do the job. It requires employers to make reasonable accommodations (as defined below) to allow disabled people to perform a job’s essential functions. This is not a guarantee of a job for disabled people, but it is protection for those who can perform its essential functions from being discriminated against on the basis of their disability.

What duties do employers owe applicants and employees with disabilities?

Employers must make reasonable accommodations to enable an employee with a disability to perform a position’s essential functions.

A reasonable accommodation is an action that enables an employee with a disability to receive the same opportunities and benefits of employment as other employees. This may be fulfilled by making facilities readily accessible to disabled individuals, providing transfer or reassignment to a vacant position for which the disabled employee is qualified, providing part &endash;time or modified work schedules, or providing modified equipment or devices to accommodate a disabled employee. This is an ongoing duty and not a one-time effort.

However, the employer’s duty to accommodate has its limits. Accommodations must not impose an “undue hardship” on the operation of the employer’s business. The employee must prove that the accommodation is reasonable both in cost and benefit to the employer’s business.