Denied Work Accommodations in California? Here’s What to Do Next

Understanding next steps after employee accommodations are denied

Introduction: Employee Accommodations Guide 

In today’s evolving work landscape, the significance of work adjustments can’t be understated. From providing employees with the tools they need to be efficient, to ensuring their health and well-being, these adjustments are vital. While California boasts some of the strongest employee protection laws in the U.S., challenges still arise, especially when seeking necessary work adjustments.

Understanding Work Adjustments and Reasonable Accommodations:

Work adjustments, often termed “reasonable accommodations,” are modifications or alterations to a job, employment practice, or the work environment, making it possible for qualified employees with disabilities to perform their job duties. This could range from ergonomic office furniture and specialized equipment to adjusted work hours or remote working options. What’s deemed ‘reasonable’ varies but is generally any adjustment that doesn’t place undue hardship on the employer.

Know Your Rights:

Every Californian employee should be acquainted with the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). This act prohibits discrimination based on disability and mandates employers to make reasonable accommodations. The FEHA provides more extensive protection than its federal counterpart, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), making California one of the foremost states in safeguarding employee rights.

Common Accommodations and Issues Faced by Californians:

California’s diverse workforce requires a myriad of accommodations to ensure that everyone can perform their jobs to the best of their ability. Some of the most commonly requested and, unfortunately, often denied accommodations include:

  • Flexible Work Hours: Many employees with disabilities or medical conditions need adjustments to their start and end times. This can be particularly vital for those with conditions that impact their energy levels at certain times of the day.
  • Remote Work: Especially in the era of COVID-19, remote work has proven to be a viable and often necessary option. This accommodation can be crucial for those with mobility issues or compromised immune systems.
  • Ergonomic Workstations: From chairs designed for better back support to standing desks, ergonomic accommodations can be vital for employees with chronic pain or other physical disabilities.
  • Job Restructuring: This might mean redistributing minor tasks that an employee is unable to perform because of a disability while retaining the main functions of their job.
  • Assistive Technology: Software for visually or hearing-impaired employees, or tools to assist with physical tasks, can make a world of difference in accessibility and productivity.
  • Sign Language Interpreters: For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, sign language interpreters can facilitate crucial communication in meetings and training sessions.
  • Accessible Parking: Employees with mobility issues might require parking spots closer to the office entrance.

Knowing What You’re Entitled To:

Learning about rights under California law for employee accommodations
Navigating next steps for employee accommodation denial in California

The FEHA makes it clear that employers must provide reasonable accommodations unless it causes undue hardship. Understanding this is key. While the term “undue hardship” can seem vague, it generally refers to significant difficulty or expense. If an employer claims this, they must prove it. And remember, even if a specific request can’t be met, employers are obligated under California law to consider alternative accommodations.

Employees should be proactive in their approach. If you know that a particular accommodation will help you, research it, present it clearly, and demonstrate how it will aid in your job performance. Knowledge and preparation can often pave the way for smoother discussions and better outcomes.

Identifying Unlawful Denials:

Not all denials of work adjustments are lawful. For instance, an employer claiming financial inconvenience without concrete evidence may be disguising discrimination. While businesses can argue genuine constraints, a mere inconvenience isn’t a valid denial reason. Understanding the fine line between legitimate business reasons and outright discrimination is crucial for employees seeking adjustments.

Immediate Steps Post-Denial:

Open dialogue is essential. Reach out to your HR or manager to understand the denial’s basis. Maybe there’s a middle ground? However, always ensure all communication is documented. Whether it’s emails, official letters, or even notes from a verbal conversation, maintaining a record is pivotal. This documentation could be invaluable later.

Seeking External Assistance:

If internal resolution seems bleak, consider external avenues. The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) in California can provide guidance. However, when facing potential legal disputes, consulting an attorney familiar with California employment law, like Marina Fraigun, becomes paramount.

Legal Recourse – Taking Matters to Court:

The idea of legal action can be daunting, but sometimes it’s the only way to ensure justice. This path begins with filing a complaint, detailing the denial and its impact. After this, there’s a process of discovery, negotiations, and possibly, a trial. While outcomes vary, knowing that you’re standing up for your rights is empowering.

Marina Fraigun’s Experience and Insight:

Having represented countless Californian employees, Marina Fraigun has seen it all. From clear-cut discrimination cases to more intricate denials, her knowledge is invaluable. Marina believes that every employee deserves fairness and equity, and through her representation, many have found justice and the accommodations they deserve.

Prevention is Better than Cure:

Before diving into requesting adjustments, research is your best friend. Understand what’s available, what’s reasonable, and present a clear case to your employer. Being informed, having open communication, and being proactive can often preempt potential denials.


Every employee deserves a conducive work environment, free from discrimination. Understanding your rights, the available resources, and potential legal avenues ensures that you’re never left stranded. And remember, if you ever feel lost, professionals like Marina Fraigun are here to guide and advocate for you.



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