If you are diagnosed with a medical condition and/or injure yourself, your employer may be required to accommodate your medical issue by changing your work conditions to enable you to continue working. In order to obtain such an accommodation, you are generally responsible for requesting it. Achal v. Gate Gourmet, Inc., 114 F.Supp.3d 781(N.D. Cal. 2015).
In making this request, the law does not require you to speak any magic words before you are subject to its protections. You don’t have to mention the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) or even the term “accommodation.” Prilliman v. United Air Lines, Inc,. 53 Cal.App.4th 935, 954 (1997). You are likewise not required to request a specific accommodation before your employer has a duty to consider it. “An employee need only give notice of his or her disability and potential need for accommodation in order to trigger the employer’s duty to engage in this cooperative, interactive process.” DesRosiers v. Hartford, 979 F.Supp.2d 1036, 1050 (E.D. Cal. 2013). You are, however, responsible for understanding the limitations of your health condition and providing your employer with a concise list of your restrictions.
Simply because you have a qualifying disability/medical condition and need an accommodation, do not assume that your employer is aware of it. The following are case examples of insufficient notice to employer. Arroyo v. Continental Airlines, Inc., 173 Fed.Appx. 634 (9th Cir. 2006) (“an employee’s informal radio requests for lifting help did not constitute notice to employer that she needed accommodation for back injury.”); Hardin v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 604 Fed.Appx. 545 (9th Cir. 2015) (explaining that an employee’s prior use of stool while working did not constitute sufficient notice to employer that employee needed that type of accommodation for his back disability.); Arn v. News Media Group, 175 Fed.Appx. 844 (explaining that conversations in which employee indicated to employer that his job situation was stressful were insufficient to make employer aware that the stress was causing a disability that the employer needed to accommodate.). Frequently leaving wok to tend to your medical condition, without any notice, may likewise constitute insufficient notice.
In requesting an accommodation, it might benefit you to do so in writing so that there is no confusion in the future as to whether you employer had adequate notice. A letter from your doctor may suffice.
Once aware, the employer has an affirmative duty to reasonably accommodate you, which is not extinguished by one effort. An employer must engage in a good faith interactive process.
If your employer refuses to accommodate your medical condition or declines to engage in an fair interactive process, you may also have a claim for disability discrimination. For more information regarding employee rights, please visit the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).