The Interactive Process
Under state and federal law, employers cannot discriminate against an employee based on a disability. Generally, to the extent possible, an employer must make any reasonable accommodations that would enable an employee with a disability to perform the necessary duties of their job. While employers are not required to accommodate every request, they must engage in an “interactive process” with the requesting employee. Through this process, an employer should be able to determine what accommodations an employee requires, and whether they can grant the employee’s request. At The Nourmand Law Firm, APC, our California employee rights lawyers help workers obtain the accommodations they need to do their job. We also handle disability discrimination cases in the event an employer is unwilling to make a reasonable accommodation.What is the Interactive Process?
The interactive process can begin in two ways. First, if an employee makes a request for a reasonable accommodation under either the Americans with Disabilities Act or the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. However, an employer’s obligation to engage in the interactive process is also triggered when the employer becomes aware of the possible need for an accommodation without an employee’s formal request. An example of the latter is if an employee exhausts their available leave after a medical event and still needs an accommodation.
In some cases, an employer may request documentation of an employee’s disability; however, if the nature of the employee’s disability is evidence, documentation may not be required.
The goal of the interactive process is for the employer to work with the employee to understand the nature of their disability and what accommodations they would need to perform the functions of their job. This involves a two-part discussion. First, an employer should discuss the employee’s disability to get a better understanding of their limitations and how they could be eliminated or lessened through an accommodation. And second, with the employee’s assistance, the employer should identify specific accommodations and determine their likely effectiveness.
Typically, employers approach the interactive process by taking the following steps:
- An employee makes a request for a reasonable accommodation (or the employer otherwise becomes aware of the possible need for a reasonable accommodation);
- The employer verifies the employee’s disability;
- Together, the employer and the employee discuss the essential functions of the employee’s position;
- Together, the employer and the employee discuss the employee’s job-related limitations;
- Together, the employer and the employee identify possible accommodations;
- The employer assesses whether the accommodation presents an “undue burden.”
Examples of reasonable accommodations include:
- Acquiring or modifying equipment.
- Changing tests, training materials or policies.
- Granting part-time or modified work schedules.
- Making existing facilities accessible.
- Modifying existing job duties or job restructuring.
- Providing leave as an accommodation.
- Providing mechanical or electrical aids.
- Providing qualified readers or interpreters.
- Reassigning the employee to a vacant position.
- Relocating the work area.
Generally, employers must make a reasonable accommodation for a qualified employee unless doing so creates an “undue burden.” Employers trying to prove that granting a request for a reasonable accommodation must show that it would require result in significant difficulty or expense. This is not an easy burden to meet; however, employers frequently try to avoid their responsibilities by arguing that a reasonable accommodation would cause an undue burden.Are You Having Difficulties Getting Your Employer to Grant a Reasonable Accommodation?
If you recently requested a reasonable accommodation and your employer is refusing to engage in the interactive process, reach out to The Nourmand Law Firm, APC. At The Nourmand Law Firm, we have more than two decades of experience helping to create a more fair and just workplace. We can help convince your employer of the need for a reasonable accommodation and file the appropriate lawsuit if they refuse to engage in the interactive process. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with our Los Angeles disability discrimination lawyer, call 800-700-WAGE (9243). You can also reach us through our online contact form.