Is my employer unlawfully handling my disability?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Is my employer unlawfully handling my disability?

I work as an electronics assembler at a manufacturing company. It’s not an assembly line. My employer has changed rules so that headphones/music is no longer allowed. I have psychological issues that make it borderline impossible for me to work in such a distracting environment. I’m the only one who speaks English as a first language. All day long there’s loud talking, humming, singing and whistling. It wasn’t an issue before

because I could wear my noise cancelling headphones and it was pleasant. Now I can’t concentrate and have anxiety attacks daily. I have been talked to about my decrease in work performance. I explained my mental issues as well as provided a recommendation from my psychiatrist requesting that I be allowed to wear headphones. I was told they can’t accommodate my doctor’s request and the only remedy they could

provide is a leave of absence, which wouldn’t help and would most likely worsen my problems financially. There’s no safety issues and I work on my own, not on a team. I’m miserable and really worried I may lose my job and cannot find a way to due my work in the current atmosphere of my work area. Am I protected or covered at all? I truly enjoy my work.

Asked on February 26, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

If, as you say, you have a verifiable, provable diagnosis and condition--thus, a provable disability--the employer must provide a reasonable accommodation. A reasonable accommoation is a change in rules or procedures that allows you to keep working there and which is not too disruptive, expensive or risky for the employer. If there truly is no safety issue from you having noise-cancelling headphones (i.e. you don't have to be able to hear warnings, alerts, etc. to do the job safely) and also no loss in productivity (you don't have to be constantly iistening to/following instructions), then they should have to allow you to use their headphones. If they will not, you should contact your state's equal/civil rights agency about filing a complaint. Only if the headphones create some risk or have a more-than-minor impact on productivity or quality could they reasonably deny you them, if you have a provable condition requiring them.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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