The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) requires all employers with at least five employees to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with either mental or physical disabilities. Contrary to popular belief, this law does not solely apply to individuals who are already employed with the company. It also applies to mentally and physically disabled individuals who are applying for a job with the company. This means that employers are required to accommodate the mental or physical disabilities of job applicants during the recruiting and interviewing process.
If you are searching for a new job and you are also mentally or physically disabled, it’s important to understand your rights when it comes to reasonable accommodations. Here’s what you need to know:
What is a Reasonable Accommodation?
A reasonable accommodation is any change or adjustment that is made to the interview process so disabled individuals can apply and be considered for a job. For example, job applicants that are deaf have the right to ask employers to provide a sign language interpreter during the interview so they can communicate with the hiring manager with ease.
Another example would be a job applicant that is in a wheelchair asking the employer to move the interview so it is conducted in a room that is wheelchair accessible. In both of these examples, the applicant asked the employer to make an adjustment to the standard interview process in order to accommodate their disability.
Asking an employer to provide specific equipment or devices, such as a wheelchair or hearing aid, is not reasonable. This is not an example of a reasonable accommodation because the request does not have to do with changing or adjusting an aspect of the standard interview process.
When Can Employers Refuse to Make Accommodations For Disabled Applicants?
The law requires employers to make accommodations for job applicants as long as doing so does not cause an undue hardship. To put it simply, this means the employer has the right to refuse to accommodate the applicant if the requested change is too difficult or expensive. This does not mean the employer can refuse any request that involves some level of difficulty or financial investment. It simply means the employer can refuse any request that is so difficult or expensive that granting it would significantly hurt the business.
For instance, consider the wheelchair accessible example above. Instead of asking the employer to move the interview to another room, say the applicant asked the employer to build an elevator. This would be an unreasonable request because building an elevator is a significant expense that could negatively impact the business.
Many employers claim that making an accommodation would cause an undue hardship, even though this is clearly not the case. This is a form of disability discrimination since it is putting non-disabled individuals at an unfair advantage.
It can be difficult to determine whether a request is reasonable or not. Each case is unique, but in general, the court will consider a number of factors when deciding whether the employer has the right to refuse a request. These factors include:
- The type of accommodation
- The cost of making the accommodation
- The company’s current financial situation
- The number of people employed by the company
- How making the accommodation will affect the company’s operations
How to Request Reasonable Accommodations For Job Interviews
Let the company know as soon as possible if you will need them to change some aspect of the recruiting or interviewing process because of your disability. Remember, employers may need a lot of time to make the requested changes, so this should not be something you tell them at the last minute. It’s best to make this request via email so you have everything in writing, but you can ask them in-person or over the phone if that’s what you prefer.
There’s no need to feel nervous about requesting an accommodation—it happens far more often than you may think. Plus, making this request will not make it harder for you to get hired. In fact, it is illegal for employers to remove candidates from the pool of applicants simply because they have requested an accommodation during the interview process. If you’re nervous, you can always ask your doctor to make the request on your behalf. There are no rules regarding who must submit the request, so it doesn’t matter who contacts the employer about the accommodation.
It’s very likely the employer will have questions regarding your request, so be sure to answer them as soon as possible. It’s important to make sure the employer understands why the accommodation is necessary because of your disability. Make it clear that if an accommodation is not made, your disability may prevent you from participating in the interviewing process.
The employer will either grant your accommodation request or suggest an alternative accommodation, which is perfectly legal as long as their alternative also meets your needs. If there are multiple accommodations that could work, the employer gets to choose which one they would like to make. Consider the wheelchair example one more time. If the applicant asked the employer to build an elevator, the employer could suggest moving the interview to a wheelchair accessible location instead. Both accommodations achieve the same goal of making it possible for the applicant to participate, so the employer gets to decide which one is best.
Has an employer refused to grant your request for a reasonable accommodation during a job interview? If so, seek legal representation as soon as possible. The experienced employment law attorneys at Shegerian & Associates are ready to hold your employer accountable and seek justice on your behalf. Contact us today to discuss your case by calling 1-800-GOT-FIRED.