Coronavirus - Reasonable Accommodations

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Reasonable Accommodations

*This page updated as June 9, 2020

Know Your Rights:

You have the right to access services you need with reasonable accommodations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Unruh Civil Rights Act and the Disabled Persons Act prohibit disability discrimination by California businesses and government agencies. Present this wallet card to help you explain your rights and request the accommodations you need in places like the grocery store, agency offices and other businesses. 

Download a printable version of these rights:

Know Your Rights Wallet Card (pdf)

 

COVID-19 and Work

California businesses are starting to re-open.  You may be starting a new job or going back to work. If you are at higher risk of getting severe illness with COVID-19, you might have concerns about working.  The good news is, there are laws to protect people with disabilities at work. Most employers are also required to provide you with reasonable accommodations that allow you to do your job safely.

Your Rights

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are laws that protect Californians from disability discrimination in the workplace.  Both laws require most California employers to give employees with disabilities reasonable accommodations. A “reasonable accommodation” is a change to the way you apply for or get a job, your job, the way you do your job or the place where you work.  It can also be a device or technology.  A reasonable accommodation allows you to do your job safely and well.

Accommodations during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Most employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations unless the accommodation:

  • Would be too difficult for your employer to provide;
  • Would endanger the health and safety of others;
  •  Changes your job in a significant way; or
  • Your employer is not covered by the ADA or DFEH.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is very important that accommodations do not put your or others’ health and safety at risk.

Some examples of accommodations are:

Working from Home

Many jobs can be done from your home. Working away from customers and co-workers could be an appropriate accommodation if you are concerned about getting COVID-19 while at work. Your employer may be able to make changes to your job or give you equipment that lets you do your job at home.

Restructuring

“Restructuring” means making changes or adjustments to your job.  Your employer may restructure your job so you do not have to interact as much with clients, customers and co-workers. For example, your employer might have customers to pay online or use a card reader at a safe distance instead of paying with cash.

Re-Assignment

“Re-assignment” means giving you a different task or job duty.  As a reasonable accommodation during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be assigned tasks where you spend less time around people to reduce your risk of getting COVID-19.

Personal Protective Equipment

Your employer may provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as a reasonable accommodation.  PPE is safety equipment you can wear to help protect you from COVID-19. For example, a mask or gloves.  PPE may help you to reduce your risk of COVID-19 when you are working.

Other Accommodations

There are many different reasonable accommodations your employer can provide. You and your employer can work together to determine the accommodations that are right for you and your job. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) has a database where you can search for the accommodations that right for you: https://askjan.org/.

How to Ask for Accommodations

You can ask for reasonable accommodations at any time. Make sure to:

  • Let your employer know you are a person with a disability.
  • Explain how your disability affects your job or means you are at higher risk of serious illness with COVID-19.
  • Explain why any steps your employer is taking to protect you from COVID-19 are not enough to accommodate your disability;
  • Let your employer know the accommodations you need and how they will help you.
  • It’s a good idea to include a deadline for your employer to let you know if you will get the accommodations you are asking for.

After you ask for an accommodation, your employer should meet with you to talk about the accommodations you need to do your job safely and well. This is called the interactive process.

If your employer does not provide you with the accommodations you need, you have the right to file a complaint. For more information about how to file a complaint, visit https://www.disabilityrightsca.org/publications/employment or contact our intake like at (800) 776-5746.

Sample Letters

You have the right to reasonable accommodations in the workplace. This includes accommodations you need during the COVID-19 pandemic to help you stay safe, healthy and be able to work. The California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are laws that protect Californians from disability discrimination in the workplace and require most employers to provide you with reasonable accommodations that allow you to do your job safely. These sample letters can be used to ask your employer:

  • For reasonable accommodations you need in the hiring process or for your job,
  • To work from home, or
  • To request paid leave if you cannot work due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sample letter to Request Reasonable Accommodations During the COVID-19 Pandemic

This sample letter can be used to ask your employer or prospective workplace for reasonable accommodations you need in the hiring process or for your job.

 

[Date]
Dear [Employer]:

I am writing to request [a] reasonable accommodation[s] for my disability/disabilities. I [am an employee of/am applying for a position at] [Public Entity]. I am also [subject to a stay-at-home order / at higher risk for COVID-19 complications because of my disability]. Because of my disability, I need to take extra care to protect myself from COVID-19. I need the following accommodations: [list accommodations]. My [physician/psychiatrist/psychologist/therapist/social worker/occupational therapist /other individual (describe)] has deemed these accommodations/modifications necessary in light of my disability. Please see the attached letter from [doctor or professional’s name]. Additionally, please see the [federal, state or local] order requiring me to shelter-in-place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Federal and state law require that employers accommodate employees and applicants who have disabilities. Please respond to this request by [date]. Feel free to contact me at [your phone number and/or e-mail address] if you have any questions. Thank you.

Sincerely,
[Your name]
[Your address]

Sample letter to Work from Home During the COVID-19 Pandemic

This sample letter can be used to ask your employer or prospective workplace for reasonable accommodations to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

[Date]
Dear [Employer]:

I am writing to request a reasonable accommodation for my disability to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I am a [job position] at [work location]. Federal and state law require employers to accommodate employees and applicants with disabilities. Because of my disability, I am in a higher risk group for contracting and/or experiencing severe or even fatal symptoms from COVID-19. For this reason, I must limit contact with others during this pandemic as much as possible.

I am able to perform the essential job duties of my position with a work from home reasonable accommodation.

I need the following equipment in order to work from home effectively [list accommodations].

[If you can get a doctor’s note that supports your request, then include:

My medical care provider has deemed it necessary to work at home instead of my usual work location.]

Please respond to this request by [date].

Sincerely,
[Your name]
[Your phone number and e-mail address]

Sample Letter to Request Paid Leave During the COVID-19 Pandemic

This sample letter will help you request paid leave if you qualify under the Family First Coronavirus Response Act.

 

[Date]
Dear [Employer]:

I am writing to request paid leave to care for [myself/someone I care for]. I  am [(1) subject to an isolation or quarantine order from the government; (2) subject to an isolation or quarantine order from my doctor; (3) experiencing COVID-19 symptoms; (4) caring for an individual who is subject to a stay-at-home order; and/or (5) caring for a child whose school or daycare is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic]. Please see the attached [letter from doctor or professional’s name/federal, state or local ordinance that requires me to isolate and quarantine]. Because [Employer] has less than 500 employees, I believe I am entitled to paid leave under the Family First Coronavirus Response Act. Please respond to this request by [date]. Feel free to contact me at [your phone number and/or e-mail address] if you have any questions. Thank you.

Sincerely,
[Your name]
[Your address]