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What is an employer allowed to ask about disabilities?

| May 18, 2021 | Workplace Discrimination |

Californians who have disabilities are protected against workplace discrimination under both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. These laws require employers to make reasonable accommodations for disabled employees upon their request to allow them to perform their jobs as long as the accommodations will not present an undue hardship for the employers. However, an employer does not have to offer accommodations. Instead, the employee has to first request them. Even though an employee is required to make the request for accommodations, that does not mean that an employer has the unrestricted ability to ask questions about a disability.

Can employers ask applicants questions about disabilities?

Employers are prohibited from asking applicants whether they have disabilities or about the severity or type of disability an applicant might have on an application or during an interview. They can ask if an applicant will be able to perform the specific duties of a job with or without reasonable accommodations and ask for a demonstration of how that might work. Applicants also cannot be asked to undergo a physical exam before a job is offered. If the employer asks for a physical exam after making a job offer, the exam must be required of all new employees for that type of position and be reasonably related to the job.

What can employers ask when employees ask for accommodations?

When an employee has a disability that is not obvious and asks for accommodations, the employer can ask for documentation about the disability and the functional limitations it presents. However, the requested documentation must be reasonable. An employer should only request sufficient documentation to show that the employee has a covered disability that requires reasonable accommodations.

Employers that ask prohibited questions about disabilities or that disclose information about an applicant’s or employee’s disability status to others may be liable to pay damages in a disability discrimination claim. People who believe that they have suffered discrimination based on their disability statuses may want to consult with an experienced employment law attorney to learn about the rights that they might have.

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