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Office of the General Counsel

Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to the FAQ page on the Americans with Disabilities Act, Fair Employment and Housing Act, reasonable accommodations, and Workers' Compensation. In fulfilling our obligations under these laws, Los Rios Community College District and its Colleges seek to work within our existing job structure to create reasonable accommodations to allow our employees to perform the essential functions of their jobs with or without reasonable accommodations. We do not wish to create or to be perceived to have created “new” job classifications for employees. However, because no two individuals are alike, it is not possible to anticipate all circumstances that may arise in this area and our Mission, Core Values and Culture may require some flexibility in appropriate circumstances.

What is the ADA and FEHA?

The federal ADA requires the District to reasonably accommodate qualified individuals with disabilities in hiring, firing, benefits and other terms, conditions and privileges of employment. The law prohibits discrimination based on disability in every aspect of the employment relationship with its employees.

What is a disability under the ADA?

Under the ADA, a disabled person is one who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, who has a record of such impairment, or who is perceived as having such an impairment. Mitigating measures (hearing aids, medication) are not taken into account under the federal law to determine if this standard has been met (except for eyeglasses). Examples of major life activities include: walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, concentrating, thinking, communicating, working, performing manual tasks, caring for one's self, eating, sitting, standing, lifting, bending, sleeping and reading. Under the ADA, a non-chronic impairment of short duration with no long term or permanent impact is not a disability. Thus, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), broken limbs, sprained joints, concussions, appendicitis, and the flu are not disabilities. The ADA prohibits discrimination against any person with a record of a disability or who is regarded as disabled.

What is a disability under FEHA?

FEHA uses the same definitions of disabilities as the ADA. Further, mitigating measures may not be taken into account in determining whether an employee is disabled. Like the EEOC, FEHA's administering agency has concluded that the non-chronic illness of short duration is exempt from the FEHA requirements. FEHA prohibits discrimination against any person with a record of a disability or who is regarded as disabled.

Who is a qualified individual with a disability?

A qualified individual with a disability under the ADA and FEHA is an individual who (a) satisfies the requisite skill, experience, education and other job-related requirements of the employment position such individual holds or desires, and (b) who can perform the essential functions of such position, with or without reasonable accommodation. This standard requires a person to meet all requirements for the job that are job related and consistent with business necessity. The essential functions of a job are the fundamental job duties of the employment position the individual with a disability holds or desires, but does not include the marginal functions of the position.

What forms or medical information do I need to provide?

The District has standard forms for requesting reasonable accommodation of disabilities. For non-obvious disabilities, the employee's disability must be supported by medical documentary evidence of the limitations the employee is experiencing.

What is the interactive process?

Once it is ascertained that a person is a qualified individual with a disability, the District and Colleges have an obligation to engage in a timely and interactive process with the employee to determine if the employee can perform the essential functions of his or her job with or without reasonable accommodations. Employees should inform HR or their supervisors of their need for reasonable accommodations. The timely part is relative to the circumstances of the injury or disability. The interactive part is a two-way street and requires both the employee and the employer to participate. This process also can include participation by the employee's equity representative, the employee's supervisor and other relevant parties.

What is a reasonable accommodation?

For existing employees, reasonable accommodations may include: sick leave, unpaid additional leave, modifications or adjustments to the work environment, or to the manner or circumstances under which the position held or desired is customarily performed, that enable a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of the position; or modifications or adjustments that enable an employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment as are enjoyed by other similarly situated employees without disabilities. Thus, a reasonable accommodation may include reassignment to a vacant position for which they are qualified, job restructuring (reallocating non-essential job functions), providing a leave of absence, part time or modified work schedules, providing assistance in the performance of an essential job function, modifying equipment or devices, providing qualified readers or interpreters.

Can the positive or negative effects of mitigating measures be considered when assessing whether someone is entitled to reasonable accommodation or poses a direct threat?

The ADA's prohibition on assessing the positive effects of mitigating measures applies only to the determination of whether an individual meets the definition of "disability." All other determinations -- including the need for a reasonable accommodation and whether an individual poses a direct threat -- can take into account the positive and negative effects of a mitigating measure. For example, if an individual with a disability uses a mitigating measure which eliminates the need for a reasonable accommodation, then an employer will have no obligation to provide one.

What is an unreasonable accommodation?

Unreasonable accommodations are not required under the ADA or FEHA. Unreasonable accommodations include giving the employee a promotion to a position they are not qualified for, lowering the quality or quantity standards, or providing personal use items like glasses and hearing aids. The reasonable accommodation standard does not require the District or college to offer a promotion or a job for which an individual does not have the legitimate skills, experience, education or other qualifications of the job sought. This standard does not require the District or college to reassign the essential functions of the job or create a new position for the qualified individual.

Who gets to decide?

The District and Colleges ultimately decide whether a requested accommodation is reasonable or not.

What is Workers' Compensation?

Under the workers' compensation law, if an employee sustains an occupational injury, workers' compensation laws may provide the employee with medical treatment and vocational rehabilitation; compensate the employee for job-related temporary and permanent disability; and protect the employee from retaliation for exercising workers' compensation rights.

Who do I call if I have a question?

The complexity of the federal Americans with Disability Act (ADA), Workers' Compensation Law and the state Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and our policies require our Employees Benefits, Workers' Compensation and Human Resources staff to coordinate their efforts when attempting to assist employees who have been hurt or injured, or become disabled. As a result, employees may work with one or all of these departments when confronted with a disability.

Do our ADA processes apply to people who are injured or disabled outside of work?

Yes. Our ADA processes apply to all of our qualified employees who have disabilities.

When does the campus coordinate ADA issues?

The campus coordinates ADA issues when:

  1. The employee's injury or illness is expected to last less than 90-120 days (temporary modified duty); and
  2. The employee can perform all of the essential functions of the job without need for any accommodation.

Does the campus have to document anything?

Yes, when the campus coordinates the ADA related issues:

  1. The campus should document the start of temporary modified duty, what temporary modifications have been made, and when they are expected to conclude by sending an email or note to the employee with a copy to HR;
  2. The campus should document that the employee has confirmed that no accommodations are required for permanent disabilities or injuries by sending an email or note to the employee with a copy to HR;
  3. The campus also should document the end of a temporary condition and the employee's return to full duty by sending an email or note to the employee with a copy to HR.

How should the campus document this?

The employee's manager or supervisor should confirm this in a note or email with a copy to HR and/or use the ADA form.

When does HR coordinate these issues?

HR coordinates these issues when an employee's disability is expected to or exceeds 120 days. At that juncture, HR picks up the interactive process started by the campus. Or, when an employee is returning from a health or related leave.

If I have a question, should I call even if I think my question sounds crazy or dumb?

Yes. There are no dumb questions. This is a complex issue and HR is here to assist. For Faculty and Management issues, call Ryan Cox. For classified, call Brenda Balsamo. For adjunct, call Theresa Cuny. We want to hear your questions before there is a problem.

A lab tech is pregnant and doesn't want to touch or be around certain chemicals - must we accommodate?

A conversation about her concerns and/or conversations with her physician would be important. This is one that is worth further discussion before a definitive answer can be given.