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Are Employers Required to Provide Reasonable Accommodations for Disabilities?

An employer must provide a reasonable accommodation for an applicant or employee with a known mental or physical disability unle

ss the accommodation would cause undue hardship.

Failure to do so is an unlawful employment practice.

To establish a failure to accommodate claim, must show:

1) a disability covered by FEHA;

2) can perform the essential functions of the position; and

3) Employer failed reasonably to accommodate the disability.

A “reasonable accommodation” means a modification or change to the workplace that enables the employee to perform the essential functions of the job held or desired.

Although accommodation is not reasonable if it produces an undue hardship to the employer, a plaintiff need not initially plead or produce evidence showing that the accommodation would not impose such an undue hardship.

Once notified of a disability, the employer’s burden is to take positive steps to accommodate the employee’s limitations. The employee also keeps a duty to cooperate with the employer’s effort by explaining his or her disability and qualifications.

Reasonable accommodation thus envisions an exchange between employer and employee where each seeks and shares information to achieve the best match between the employee’s capabilities and positions.

If reasonable accommodation does not work, the employee must notify the employer who has a duty to provide further accommodation.


1. Every employer in California has a duty to provide reasonable accommodations for an employee's disabilities unless the accommodation would cause undue hardship to the employer.

2. "Physical disability” is broadly construed so that employees are protected from discrimination due to actual or perceived physical impairment that is disabling, potentially disabling, or perceived as disabling or potentially disabling.

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