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California Employment Lawyers > Blog > Employment > What Is An Interactive Reasonable Accommodations Process?

What Is An Interactive Reasonable Accommodations Process?


If you are a California employee with a disability, you may be attempting to navigate the reasonable accommodations process. Reasonable accommodations are intended to ensure that an employee with a temporary or permanent disability is able to perform the essential functions of their job. There are a number of state and federal laws that protect employees’ rights and provide protections for employees with disabilities, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). FEHA is broader in its definition of disability as well as in the protections it offers. For this reason, if you are a California employee with a disability, FEHA is important to acquaint yourself with.

FEHA Protections for Employees with Disabilities

FEHA not only requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations for employees who need them in order to perform essential functions of their job, it also requires that these accommodations be offered promptly, in good faith, and as the result of an interactive and collaborative process with the employee. FEHA applies to public-sector businesses as well as private-sector businesses with more than five employees, and to the government, so if you are an employee in California, there is a good chance you are covered by its protections.

What is an “Interactive Process” for Reasonable Accommodations?

Once an employer has confirmed that an employee has a qualifying disability, the employer is responsible under FEHA for initiating an interactive process with the employee to determine reasonable accommodations. This process must be initiated and handled in good faith. An interactive process involves talking with the employee to determine what job-related limitations exist and how they could best be remedied, mitigated, or addressed with a reasonable accommodation. This is necessary because an executive’s “best guess” at what an employee with a disability may need to complete their tasks may not be effective, and can also create the misleading appearance of an unproductive employee, when really they just don’t have the tools they need to do their job. The employer should first determine what the essential functions of the position are and structure the conversation around these. The employer should also utilize the employee’s assistance in identifying possible reasonable accommodations and work together to assess their potential effectiveness and decide on the best option. The intention of this process should be to determine whether there is a reasonable accommodation that would allow the employee to do their job effectively. If a reasonable accommodation exists, the employer is legally required to provide it unless doing so would create undue hardship to the operation of the business. If an employer does not enter this process in good faith or is not actually trying to make an effort to find a solution, this does not meet the threshold for an interactive process.

Talk to a San Jose, California Employment Lawyer

If you are a California employee who is struggling to get the reasonable accommodations that you require to do your job effectively, or has been discriminated against due to your disability or another protected status, the San Jose employment attorneys at Costanzo Law Firm are ready to help. We will fight to hold your employer accountable and get you the compensation that you deserve. Contact us today to schedule a personalized consultation.

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