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What should small businesses know about reasonable accommodations?

| Jan 5, 2021 | Employment Law |

Reducing risk is one of a small business owner’s primary goals. This requires them to be familiar with many legal rules and guidelines – especially when it comes to employment.

And some of the most important issues employers must understand are their duties under the law. For example, employers must take steps to ensure workers with disabilities receive proper protections, or risk facing complex legal actions.

Remember: State and federal laws protect workers with disabilities

Employers must offer equal employment opportunities to all qualified candidates, no matter their medical condition or ability. This is required under specific laws, including:

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) at the federal level
  • The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) at the state level

Most California employers know that the terms of the ADA can play a large role in the hiring process. However, these laws cover more than hiring practices or employment actions.

One of the most critical aspects of these laws that employers must heed is the requirement to provide reasonable accommodations. This applies to all employers, regardless of the size of their business.

What accommodations might employers have to make?

Essentially, employers must make “reasonable accommodations” that help qualified employees to do their job. This usually requires employers to modify the workplace, position or make exceptions in company policies.

Generally, these modifications can include:

  • Allowing employees to sit while they work
  • Adjusting work schedules
  • Permitting the employee to take more breaks
  • Getting an interpreter for employees with hearing impairments

Of course, these modifications must be within reason. Employers do not have to provide accommodations if it causes an undue hardship on operations, i.e. it is too expensive or difficult to do so. However, most modifications cost employers very little – in terms of hardship or expense.

Know the rules about accommodations

Strategically preparing such modifications can be a challenge for small business owners, but they must take this requirement seriously. If they do not make the proper adjustments, they risk facing a discrimination lawsuit.

While workers have the burden of proof to show that their employer did not provide a reasonable accommodation, it is still critical for employers to take extra precautions to avoid these issues. Employers should take the time to understand what is expected of them under both state and federal laws.