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Does an employer have to adjust my shift based on a doctors diagnosis?

Sacramento, CA |

I have been diagnosed with Nyctalopia a.k.a. night blindness. My current shift at work is 1pm to 10pm. When I drive home, low light cause my vision to dim and is hard to see the road. My doctor said this is a disability and advised me not to drive at night and where protective eye glasses. She provided me with a note to give to my employer advising the I cannot drive at night. Im requesting my employer allow me to work a day shift because of this. Shifts here range from 445AM to 11pm so it can definately be accomodated. Is my employer required by California law to abide by this doctors note and accomodate me because this is technically a disability? I have worked for them for 4 years. Thank you.

Attorney Answers 2


Yes, most likely. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires covered employers to make reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of qualified individuals with disabilities, unless it results in undue hardship. Reasonable accommodations must be determined on an individual, case-by-case basis, but may include things such as modifying work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position, making existing facilities readily accessible and job restructuring.

The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author (who is only admitted to practice law in the State of California). For specific advice about your particular situation, consult your own attorney.

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Yours seems like an easy question on the surface, but disability accommodation issues can be surprisingly challenging. If your employer is willing to simply switch your shift, then there is no problem. But many employers, especially those with collective bargaining agreements that provide for seniority-based shift-bidding, pay differentials among shifts, or other employment processes for managing the competing interests of other employees, will contend that they cannot simply swap out workers from one shift to another. You may have to be wait-listed for a vacancy in the shift you want and you are not necessarily entitled to priority ahead of another employee in shift preferences.

One of the potential snags in a simple solution to your request for accommodation is that, based on the facts you have presented here, your disability does not affect your ability to perform your employment duties. Instead, it impacts your ability to travel home from your job. In most instances, an employer does not have a legal obligation to accommodate external problems such as commuting difficulties. An inflexible employer may contend that you can use public transportation or arrange to car-pool or make other suitable arrangements for travel to and from work. Some employers would even argue you can relocate to a residence within walking distance. The law is not highly developed on these kinds of issues, and it can be difficult to predict the outcome of a contested matter on these facts.

If your employer balks at a request to simply switch your shift, you would be wise to consult with an experienced disability rights - employee rights attorney.

My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as legal advice. I give legal advice only in the course of an attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by individual consultation and execution of a written agreement for legal services.

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