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Failure to Engage in the Interactive Process

Failure to Engage in the Interactive Process

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) protect the rights of individuals with disabilities and medical conditions in the workplace. There are three main reasons that may require your employer to engage in an interactive process:

  • Physical disabilities
  • Mental disabilities
  • Medical Conditions

An employer should engage in the interactive process when they know that an employee has a condition that qualifies as a disability or serious medical condition. Failure to engage in this process could be unlawful.

What is a Reasonable Accommodation?

The Fair Housing and Employment Act of California requires all employers with more than five employees to offer reasonable accommodation(s) for their employees and job applicants with disabilities. Examples of reasonable accommodations include:

  • Changing job duties
  • Offering leave for medical care
  • Changing work schedules
  • Relocating the employee to a more favorable work area
  • Offering mechanical and electrical aids
  • Providing reserved parking
  • Providing a more ergonomic work environment
  • Providing a leave of absence
  • Providing intermittent leave
  • Allowing an employee to work from home

After engaging in an interactive process, employers will find out which reasonable accommodations would suit a particular disabled employee.

Steps to Follow When Engaging in an Interactive Process

The interactive process is usually a back-and-forth discussion between the employer and the employee or their medical professional. During the discussion, the employee and/or their medical professional(s) will explain their challenges in the workplace caused by their disabilities.

In return, the employer determines whether they can provide the requested accommodations. A “reasonable” accommodation is one that does not cause the employer undue hardship. “Undue hardship” does not have a clearly defined meaning, but it has instead been continuously defined and redefined over the years by state and federal case law. For example—it may be more difficult for smaller employers to find replacement workers while an employee is taking a medically necessary leave of absence—while larger employers may not have as much trouble.

During the interactive process, the employer will need to follow these steps:

Recognizing an accommodation request: The employee and/or their medical professional should submit this request to the employer in writing. However, the request can also be made verbally.

Gathering the required information: Some employers may require a doctor’s note stating what reasonable accommodations you are requesting. However, an employee does not always need to disclose their private health information to the employer in order to be accommodated.

Exploring the available accommodation options: The employer should invite employees and/or their medical professionals to suggest accommodations. If both parties cannot find a reasonable solution, they should consider contacting vocational rehabilitation experts or other relevant organizations for assistance.

Choosing and implementing the accommodation: After exploring the available solutions, the employer should pick one that meets the needs of the employee and does not create an undue hardship. They should then monitor the accommodation and ensure it is effective.

Steps to Follow When an Employer Fails to Engage in the Interactive Process

If your employer fails to engage in the interactive process, you may need to speak with a reputable San Francisco labor and employment attorney like Melody Rissell Leonard with the Rissell Law Firm. Melody takes pride in helping all of her clients try to achieve great results and will work tirelessly on your behalf.

If you are ready to take action, contact Melody today to schedule a free, confidential case review.

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