An Employer’s due to engage in the interactive process and the duty to reasonably accommodate an employee’s disability.
If an employee has a disability and the employer is aware of the employee’s disability, then the employer is required to engage in an interactive process and has a duty to reasonably accommodate the employee’s disability. The employer is required to engage in an interactive process with an employee in order for the employer to determine whether or not it is possible to implement effective and reasonable accommodations so that the employee could continue performing his or her essential duties. An interactive process is defined as “both the employer and employee have the obligation ‘to keep communications open and neither has a right to obstruct the process’” (Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instruction: CACI). The interactive process has to be in good faith of the employer so that the employer tries to figure out any way that he or she can in order to avoid terminating the employee with the disability. This requirement for the employer to engage in an interactive process with his or her employee is stated in the Fair and Housing Act, which can also be abbreviated to FEHA.
As previously stated, the employer also has a duty to reasonably accommodate an employee with a disability. Reasonable accommodations are important in the workplace because they provide equality amongst the employees, whether the employees have a disability or not. In addition, reasonable accommodations allow the employee with a disability to continue to satisfy his or her job duties and responsibilities. Moreover, reasonable accommodations allow employees with disabilities to have the same benefits as employees who do not have disabilities.
There are several different reasonable accommodations that could be implemented by an employer. For example, let’s say an employee has a hearing disability, then the employer could accommodate this employee by providing him or her with a qualified sign language interpreter. Another example of reasonable accommodation would be if the employee is wheelchair-bound and the employer decides to accommodate this employee’s disability by creating a readily accessible workplace, i.e ramps. Another example of reasonable accommodation could be if the employee’s child has a disease or illness and seeks attention, and therefore, the employer decides to give the employee flexible work schedules or change his or her work responsibilities. Other examples of reasonable accommodations include an employer reassigning his or her employee to a vacant position, an employer modifying or providing equipment or devices, or an employer modifying tests or training materials (Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instruction: CACI).
In sum, if an employee has a disability and notifies his or her employer of this disability, then the employer is reliable for engaging in an interactive process with his or her employee and providing the employee with reasonable accommodations at the workplace. If the employer does not do so, then the employee could make a disability discrimination claim against his or her employer. The burden is on the employer to prove that accommodations were unable to be implemented for specific reasons. The burden is also on the employer to prove that interactive process claims are false or inconsistent.
Source: Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instruction: CACI