I was recently injured and need to request an accommodation. Can my employer fire me if I make the request?

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I was recently injured and need to request an accommodation. Can my employer fire me if I make the request?

Under California law, your employer cannot legally fire you just because you have a disability or requested an accommodation. An employer with at least five employees must first determine if there is a reasonable accommodation that will keep you working. This accommodation may be modified equipment, extended medical leave, flexible schedule, temporary duties, reassignment to another open position you can perform, or many other possibilities. But if there is simply no possible way to accommodate an employee, and no prospect of recovery after medical leave, then the employer might have good cause to terminate. These judgments require years of expertise and experience, so when in doubt, contact an employment lawyer for advice.

Of course, employers will rarely admit to firing an employee because they are disabled. However, the employer may tell you that you are being let go for another reason, such as bad performance or a layoff. If this happens, the question becomes whether the employer’s excuse is false. If you have a good performance history before the disability onset and are suddenly written-up and fired for no good reason, then a judge or jury could determine the employer’s reason was false pretext. Or, if you are “laid off” but no one else is let go, or your same or similar job is reposted, that could lead to the conclusion the employer had another motive, such as your disability. If so, then the employer may be liable for wrongful termination.

If an employer cannot make a reasonable accommodation because it would be an “undue hardship,” they may legally terminate a disabled worker. An undue hardship means that providing the accommodation would result in “significant difficulty or expense” for the employer. This can depend on the size and resources of the employer, the nature of the accommodation, the nature of job and the employer’s line of business. But there is no black-and-white rule for when an accommodation is an undue hardship. If your employer refuses to accommodate your condition, or terminates you instead, then you should contact an employment lawyer immediately.

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