What You May Not Know About Reasonable Accommodation for Restaurants

Restaurants are required under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (the “ADA”) to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified employees or applicants for employment with disabilities. While most restaurants have a general understanding of this regulation, many are surprised about the specifics of the law and what it means for them when running a business.

Many employers like to play it safe and make an accommodation whenever an employee requests it. However, it’s good to know what’s considered a reasonable accommodation for restaurants and what is not.

First, some restaurants are unaware reasonable accommodation may last for long periods of time (provided an employee has a doctor’s note that states restrictions). In such an instance, an employer should request and maintain all employee documentation. The employer and employee can then work together to find a solution to accommodate the request.

Second, employers are also surprised that in order to give reasonable accommodation to a pregnant employee, they would need a doctor’s note to do so. Employers are not allowed to give restrictions to a pregnant employee without a doctor’s note stating the restrictions.

Lastly, employers may not be aware of the right questions to ask applicants as it pertains to reasonable accommodation requirements. For example, employers cannot ask any questions that disclose or give an idea of an applicant’s disability.

Employers are not required to accommodate every medical condition. To receive the protection of California reasonable accommodation laws, the condition must qualify as a disability. Fortunately, the definition of “disability” covers individuals with a broad range of conditions. Your HR department can help clarify or confirm what is categorized as a disability under the law.

Requirements for Reasonable Accommodation for Restaurants

Employers should understand an accommodation is considered reasonable when adjustments are made so employees with disabilities can perform the essential functions of their job. This is unless the employer can demonstrate that granting the accommodation creates an undue hardship (significant difficulty or expense) to the business operation.

Additionally, an employee must be able to perform the essential job functions the position requires with or without accommodation. Examples of reasonable accommodation include altering desk height for an employee in a wheelchair or allowing more frequent breaks for a diabetic employee to eat, drink, or take medication to maintain blood sugar levels.

It is important to note that physical and mental disabilities do not include the following as per the current law:

  • Sexual behavior disorders;
  • Compulsive gambling, kleptomania, pyromania; or
  • Illegal psychoactive substance use.

California employment law is constantly in a state of flux. It’s important to have an HR department who can update your team accordingly and keep them accountable for any legal changes. This includes laws for current employees but also, to ensure your business is abiding by the law during hiring practices.

Knowledge about reasonable accommodation is necessary from a management standpoint, but it also helps to educate employees about legal requirements and changes as they occur. Take time to review your current accommodations and/or restrictions to ensure you have the right processes and regulations in place.