One of the more common mistakes that employees with a disability / serious medical condition make when working with the employer on obtaining an accommodation is assuming that the employer is entirely responsible for exploring which accommodations can and should be provided to that employee. The law is clear that the disability accommodation process is a “two-way street”. Under both ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and FEHA (California Fair Employment and Housing Act) both the employer and employee have to engage in the “interactive process” and explore which accommodations can and should be provided.
As an employee who is seeking an accommodation upon return to work from medical leave or disability leave, or otherwise, it is in your best interest to give your employer as many realistic ideas as possible on how they can accommodate your restrictions. This may include a wide range of things, including modified hours, modified duties, partial telecommute, ergonomic equipment, job restructuring or temporary / permanent transfer to another position, which is vacant and for which you are qualified.
When you come forward and make your own reasonable suggestions about how your employer can accommodate your medical condition or disability, it will likely benefit you no matter what your employer is up to. If the employer is genuinely trying to help you come back and / or continue to work, then giving them ideas about what can be done will likely help them find you the right type of accommodation, which is both effective and reasonable from their perspective. If, on the other hand, the employer’s true mission is to get rid of you because of your disability, participating in the interactive process and providing your employer with accommodations ideas will make your potential wrongful termination and discrimination case stronger. This is because the employer who not only failed to accommodate the disabled employee as required by law, but who also ignored that employee’s suggestions looks even worse in court – in front of a judge and jury. Be sure to also read about other disability rights in California.