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How does the law protect disabled workers?

California has strong protections for employees and job applicants with disabilities. Basically, the law says that employers must provide "reasonable accommodations" to allow workers to perform their core job duties.

The law applies to disabilities that exist at the time of application and those that arise after being hired. It applies to both mental and physical conditions.

If you have a disability that impacts your work, you may be wondering what your rights are. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions.

How do I tell my boss I need help?

It is up to the employee or applicant to request accommodation. You will need to tell your employer that you have a disability, how it affects your ability to perform your job and what accommodations your employer can give you to allow you to perform your duties. It is usually best to put this in writing.

What proof do I have to give?

Employers can request to see your medical records, as they relate to proving your disability and justifying your need for an accommodation. If your disability is not obvious, you may find it helpful to get a letter from your doctor that explains your situation.

What accommodations can I request?

The law entitles disabled workers to "reasonable accommodations." Generally, this means something that allows you to perform your essential job functions but does not put an undue burden on your employer.

What is "reasonable" under the law will depend on the unique circumstances of each individual case. Some common examples include things like an accessible workstation, a sign language interpreter or a modified break schedule.

Can my employer refuse my request?

Employers do not have to provide the exact accommodation an employee asks for. It is enough that the accommodation will meet your needs. Your employer does have to engage in a meaningful discussion with you to find the best resolution to the problem.

Moreover, employers do not have to make accommodations that impose undue hardship. An accommodation might be unreasonable if it would be very difficult or expensive to implement.

Can I be punished for requesting an accommodation?

No. It is illegal to discriminate against disabled employees and job applicants, and it is illegal to retaliate against someone for disclosing their disability or requesting an accommodation. If you have been treated unfairly at work, it is a good idea to talk to an employment law attorney about taking steps to protect your rights.

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