A person with a physical or mental disability has the right to a reasonable accommodation to allow the person to perform the essential functions of any job. A California employer with five or more employees has a duty to provide such a “reasonable accommodation” and, in doing so, must engage with in a good-faith interactive process to try to find an accommodation.
The determination of whether a specific request for an accommodation is reasonable or not reasonable depends on the totality of the circumstances, including the cost of an accommodation and the ability of the employer to cover the cost of an accommodation. Common accommodations include specialized equipment, making facilities accessible, job restructuring, modified work schedule, reassignment to a vacant position, etc.
Under California law, a person is disabled if he or she has a limitation on a major life activity while federal law requires a substantial limitation on a major life activity. Working is considered a major life activity in California, among other activities such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, walking, standing, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, communicating, etc.
If an employee needs an accommodation, he or she should make a formal request to the employer. Although the request does not have to be in writing, a request should be detailed, specific and ideally supported by evidence including documentation from a doctor or treating physician.
More information about the reasonable accommodation process is available from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Job Accommodation Network.