Workplace Personal Assistance

The Details

Personal Assistance as a Reasonable Accommodation at Work

If workplace personal assistance services would let you do the essential duties of a job that may be difficult because of your disability, they might be considered a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. In that case, your employer must respond to a request for a reasonable accommodation. Under the ADA, employers with 15 or more employees must provide reasonable accommodations; under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, employers with five or more employees must provide reasonable accommodations.

For example, your employer could decide to have employees to help you as needed or could hire a part-time assistant as a reasonable accommodation.

Learn more about your rights and reasonable accommodations

If you need help with a task that is not an essential duty, your employer is not required to provide personal assistance services. In that case, you will need to find other ways to pay for them: if you get In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS), you can use IHSS hours once you get approval from your case worker to use IHSS at work. If you don’t have IHSS, you can pay for these services with your own money, or other programs may help pay for them.

Two key questions about workplace personal assistance

1. Do you need personal assistance to perform the duties of your job? If so, it may be a reasonable accommodation under the law. Examples:

  • Filing paperwork, retrieving work materials that are heavy or out of reach, or performing other manual tasks
  • Communication needs, such as an interpreter
  • Assistance with business-related travel for a person with a mobility or visual impairment

These services support performing the essential functions of the job.

2. Do you need personal assistance mainly for your personal benefit, but not for the essential duties of the job? If so, IHSS may pay for these services or you may need to pay for them yourself. Examples:

  • Help making or eating meals or snacks at break time
  • Help with personal care, grooming, bathroom breaks, or personal hygiene
  • Paramedical services, like wound care, giving medications, or suctioning a ventilator

These services are mostly personal in nature and not job-related. Deciding if the service is job-related or primarily for your personal benefit is based on the details of your situation and job.

Using IHSS to Pay for Workplace Personal Assistance

In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) may pay for workplace personal assistance that is “relevant and necessary in supporting and keeping employment.” This includes any activity that helps you get a job, such as interviewing or training that is offered or required by an employer.

If you get IHSS, you can transfer some of your current authorized monthly service hours (determined by the IHSS needs assessment) from the home to the workplace in order to “obtain, retain, or return to work.”

To use IHSS hours at your work, you must first contact your IHSS eligibility worker and explain the number of hours that will be used in the workplace and the services those hours will be used for. The county can then approve the use of these hours in the workplace.

However, you do not get more monthly service hours than you had before: the most hours you can get is still 283 per month. That means that if you use some of your hours at work, you have fewer hours of IHSS at home.

Note: IHSS hours cannot be used for help with college courses or vocational training; traveling to and from work; or any reasonable accommodations that your employer is responsible for providing.

Ways to pay for workplace personal assistance without IHSS

If you do not get IHSS or do not want to use your IHSS hours at work, other agencies or programs may also help you pay for workplace personal assistance, including the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR), the Veterans Administration (VA), workers' compensation coverage, or other programs. To explore which other programs may be available, contact a benefits planner.

Learn more