Employees Need to Inform Employers of Known Disability When Requesting An Accommodation
In a recent California Court of Appeal case, an employee claimed that his employer violated the Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA") by failing to accommodate his disabilities. When the employee applied for the position, he signed an application under penalty of perjury that he did not have a disability and later began working for the employer. Several years later, the employee submitted a request for an accommodation and wrote that he had a learning disorder. The employer requested documentation to determine what type of accommodations may be necessary. The employee's doctor requested a workplace that would help the employee with attention and concentration "since he is easily distracted and under stress." The employer responded indicating that it had provided an appropriate workplace free from distraction. The employee claimed that the employer began harassing the employee. The Court of Appeal held that while the FEHA makes it unlawful to discriminate against an employee because of a disability. However, the FEHA also requires an employee to accommodate a "known" disability. The Court of Appeal held that the employee had not provided sufficient information to the employer to put it on notice that he suffered from a disability covered by the FEHA and that information about the nature and extent of the employee's claimed disabilities was crucial to the employer's determination whether a reasonable accommodation was necessary or whether the employer could provide a reasonable accommodation. The take away from this case is that if you (an employee) require some kind of accommodation because of a disability, you must provide sufficiently detailed information to your employer about your disability to allow the employer to make a determination about the nature and availability of an accommodation.