At times, employees may need specific accommodations in order to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. This may have been the result of an accident and subsequent disability, an impairment of some kind, or another reason. It is unlawful for the employer to deny accommodations in many situations; workers have a right to be accommodated and not get fired or suspended for their injuries or disabilities. The way that the accommodations are broached is through the interactive process. If you believe that your employer has discriminated against you, wrongly denied you reasonable accommodations, or abused or ignored the interactive process, you can take legal action. Our team of attorneys at the California Labor Law Employment Attorneys Group will be able to defend your rights.
What is the interactive process?
The interactive process is essentially a communication between you and your employer about the needs you have at your job and the requirement for accommodations. The actual definition according to California Government Code §12940(n) is as follows:
For an employer or other entity covered by this part to fail to engage in a timely, good faith, interactive process with the employee or applicant to determine effective reasonable accommodations, if any, in response to a request for reasonable accommodation by an employee or applicant with a known physical or mental disability or known medical condition.
The interactive process is a direct result of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The ADA bars employers from discriminating against workers based on their disability status, whether mental or physical, and requires that they provide reasonable accommodations to the workers. Workers must prove they are disabled under the wording of the ADA by showing a limiting disability, providing a record of the disability, and are regarded as having the impairment. The question that is often asked is, “Was failure to engage in interactive process a violation of the ADA?” And the answer is yes.
These accommodations can be denied if they are too taxing on the company in a financial sense, if they interfere with the abilities of others to complete their job duties, or if they are no longer fit to complete their own job responsibilities.
The employer must sit down in an informal process in which the limitations of the employee are discussed and potential accommodations are brought to the table. Some examples of reasonable accommodations include:
- Stools to sit on
- Additional time off for medical treatments
- Remote work
- No lifting of heavy materials
- Altered schedule
- Reduced hours
- Additional breaks during the day
- Service animals
- Adaptive tools
- Building modifications
It is possible that there are compromises in the workplace – that is partially what the interactive process is for. An employee may ask for a new office to be constructed after suffering an injury and getting permanently put in a wheelchair. The employer may not want to spend such money to enlarge an office or add a new one, so the compromise may be to allow remote work.
The failure to engage in the interactive process occurs when the employer actively avoids discussing reasonable accommodations or blows the worker off. You may there not be reasonably accommodated at all, and your employer could try to argue that it did not know that you needed any assistance. Employers must engage in the process in a timely manner and with good faith. Refusal to do so can result in a lawsuit.
The Consequences of Failing to Engage in the Interactive Process
If your employer does not engage you in the interactive process, you could go without accommodations at your job. This may worsen your disability, cause you to underperform, hurt your work output, dissatisfy customers, and ultimately lead to a reduced profit or level of success with the company. It is common for the worker to then be blamed for this drop and for the employer to deny any accountability.
There could be a few different responses by your employer if you address this failure. One is retaliation, which would involve the employer actively punishing you for broaching the subject. You could be docked wages, reassigned to a worse position, be demoted, suffer blacklisting, face poor performance reviews, and much more.
Retaliation can even culminate in wrongful termination, which is the illegal firing of a protected employee. If you are not given reasonable accommodations and there is no discussion or interactive process, you could sue.
What You Should Do If Your Employer Avoids the Interactive Process
In order to file a lawsuit against your employer for failing to engage in the interactive process, you must gather necessary evidence. This evidence should consist of communication or documents showing that you informed your employer of your disability and expected accommodations or a discussion. You may have emailed your boss, texted a supervisor, left a voicemail, and more. it is important to always back up your phone calls with messages to ensure that there is two forms of proof, as vocal statements are hard to support.
You will need to prove that you have a disability and that you need accommodations, as well. Your employer may have refused to believe you, so doctor’s statements and requests can be used in your favor.
You can provide statements from coworkers who were aware of the disability, knew that you made a request for accommodations, or who were even denied accommodations themselves. There may be a history of discrimination at your workplace, so adding testimonies from coworkers can help show the pattern of behavior.
When you have your evidence together, you will need to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The EEOC handles Federal claims while the DFEH handles claims in California.
It is important that you reach out to an attorney if you have never taken legal action before. With the help of a lawyer, your employment lawsuit will be suitably handled and will not run the risk of being denied quickly or rejected. We know the best methods for success and have the experience to ensure that your claim is swiftly dealt with. You don’t have to worry about anything when you come to our firm.
Deadline to File an Employment Claim
The statute of limitations is the time frame during which you can sue your employer for failing to engage in the interactive process. This time limit exists so that both parties can adequately defend themselves and are not victimized by time; for instance, it would be unfair for a worker to file a claim ten years into the future after the employee has left. It is recommended that you take action sooner rather than later, as your evidence should be kept preserved and not risk being corrupted or lost.
In California, the statute of limitations to file a claim citing your employer’s failure to engage in the interactive process is 1 year from the date of the incident. This is not a lot of time, so you will have to move quickly. The main reason that many victims fail to get compensation is due to the inability to file a claim in the correct amount of time. We have seen many individuals wait very long and miss the deadlines.
Compensation from a Lawsuit Against Your Employer
The failure to engage in the interactive process can also lead to a failure to provide you with reasonable accommodations, or it can result in retaliation and wrongful termination. Either way, your job will be compromised, and as a result, so will your income. We will do everything we can to secure you the maximum compensation for your damages, including the following:
- Lost wages you did not earn, such as commission, tips, reduced pay, and more
- Lost benefits, insurance coverage, promotion, and more
- Reinstatement if you were fired, although many victims opt not to return t the job if the atmosphere has not changed or if they are likely to be targeted in the future
- Pain and suffering damages for emotional anxiety, PTSD, fear, psychological trauma, and more
- Punitive damages if the choices and actions were deliberate and were meant to harm you in some way
We will not rest until we have won you the fairest possible settlement under the law.
Choosing the Best Firm for You
The California Labor Law Employment Attorneys Group is well known for its dedication to clients and successful claims. We have decades of experience in the field of employment law and we know the methods to achieve victory. Our attorneys are aggressive and will never give up on your claim. We are willing to go to all lengths to win you a settlement, including going to court.
For a free legal consultation, reach out to our firm today. We can answer all your questions and help you understand the legal process. We will ensure that all consultations are confidential and none of your private information will be shared elsewhere. Further, if you hire us, you won’t use any out of pocket finances for our services. We will not get paid unless and until we win, and if we lose, we get nothing. You never touch a bill for our representation – only your employer will.
To file a lawsuit based on your employer’s failure to engage in the interactive process, contact the California Labor Law Employment Attorneys Group today.