California employees with disabilities have numerous rights and protections by law. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Rehabilitation Act, California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Unruh Civil Rights Act, and the Disabled Persons Act all have statutes that outline how employers must provide for persons with disabilities in the workplace. If an employer discriminates against you because of your or even potential disability, you likely have the option to file a claim against him or her. Get help from the Workers’ Advocate Law Group attorneys, we can make the difference in the success of your disability claim.
California disability laws are so complicated, that even experienced human resource managers (and company attorneys) often make serious mistakes. Both California and Federal law make it illegal for employers to treat you differently because of your disabilities or medical conditions. Employers cannot refuse to reasonably accommodate or to refuse to engage in a good faith interactive process with you to determine what accommodations are needed for you. However, most employers don’t communicate well or have most junior human resources managers handle disability leave and accommodation requests.
These laws protect you whether you are actually disabled or merely perceived as being disabled by your employer. Therefore, even you have no actual disability, the employer may still be liable if they mistakenly believe that you are disabled and treat you unfavorably because of it.
What is Disability Discrimination in California?
At its fundamental essence, workplace disability discrimination occurs when a worker is treated unfairly or unequally at work because of a disability. Legally speaking, this technically is known as a worker experiencing disparate or even negative treatment at work because of physical or mental disability.
Beginning in the 1980s, the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA enhanced the level of protections afforded to a worker and others with some type of disability. In basic terms, employers cannot discriminate against employees because of a worker’s disability.
Some examples in regard to the manner in which employees with disabilities are discriminated in the workplace:
- Basing hiring, firing or promotion decisions on employee’s disability
- Unfair or unequal job assignments
- Unequal pay or benefits
- Not providing reasonable accommodations or other ADA violation
Unfair treatment of an employee because he or she has a disability is illegal. This includes employees who have a history of a disability, such as cancer that is in remission, or an impairment that will only last up to six months. Employees who have a spouse with a disability are also protected against discrimination and harassment at work under the law.
Types of Disability Discrimination
If you have a condition that California state law recognizes as a disability, you are part of a protected class. As such, you have the right to fair and equal treatment from employers. There is no excuse for an employer to treat someone less favorably because of a disability, family history of disability, or the belief that someone has a disability. Doing so is against the law, and can result in employer liability for damages. Some common examples of disability discrimination at work include:
- Refusing to hire a job applicant because of a disability. The ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against disabled job applicants.
- Unlawfully treating a qualified applicant or employee less favorably than others because of a disability.
- The refusal to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or applicant with a disability.
- Asking about the nature or severity of a disability, as well as requesting medical records or non-routine medical/psychological exams.
- Terminating a worker’s employment or breaking an employment agreement upon discovering a disability or becoming disabled.
- Terminating an employee for taking disability-related medical leaves or sick days.
- Retaliating against a person who files a claim regarding unlawful disability discrimination, or who requests a reasonable accommodation for a disability.
- Failing to consider possible alternative employment for persons with disabilities during the application process.
- Withdrawing job offers or giving negative references because an applicant has a disability.
If a disabled person cannot perform the duties required for the job position (“essential job functions”), the employer does not have to hire him or her. The same is true if there is another, more qualified applicant who does not have a disability. In addition, the employer may not be required to provide an accommodation if doing so would cause “undue hardship” on the employer. This “undue hardship” defense has many factors that a court must look at to see if the employer was correct in denying the accommodation. It is only discrimination if the employer takes adverse employment action against a person, and the person’s disability was a major factor in taking such action. Our lawyers can help you identify disability discrimination, and take action against perpetrators in Los Angeles by talking to an experienced discrimination attorney.
Commonly Misunderstood Rules for Disabled Employees in California
The California Fair Employment and Housing, or FEHA, offers more protection to our state’s employees than the federal Americans with Disabilities Act provides. This is evident in the manner in which each of these legal schemes defines disability in the first instance.
The ADA defines disability as a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits major life activity or multiple life activities.
The FEHA defines disability as a physical or mental impairment that makes any major life activity difficult. This law does not require a substantial limitation of a life activity.
Examples of disabilities under these laws include:
- Biological challenges including loss of a limb
- Chronic diseases including HIV/AIDs, diabetes, and hepatitis or clinical depression and bipolar disorder
- Impaired senses, including eyesight, hearing, speech
- Intellectual or cognitive disabilities
- Pregnancy and childbirth
- Specific learning disabilities
Since the coverage is expanded for employees in California, it is important to also know what is not covered by the FEHA:
- Compulsive gambling
- Sexual behavior disorders
- Unlawful use of controlled substances resulting in impairment
If You Have a Disability or Medical Condition, Contact our Disability Discrimination Attorneys if:
- You have been terminated, demoted, denied a promotion, reassigned to an unfavorable job/location or denied employment due to your medical condition or disability
- Your employer takes your medical condition or disability into account in punishing or terminating you (example: firing you for being late to work because you have a sleep disorder or other medical condition)
- You have been denied a medical leave or accommodations by your employer
- Your employer knows of your condition and does not discuss accommodations with you
- Your employer knows of your condition and does not provide you with information about your right to take a medical leave under FMLA or CFRA
- Your employer terminates you after or during a medical leave of absence
If you have a physical or mental disability or serious medical condition and your employer refuses to grant you reasonable accommodations (such as a medical leave of absence, flexible hours, temporary light duty or job restructuring) then you may have a good case against them. Contact our experienced disability discrimination attorneys at Workplace Justice Advocates, PLC today to see if you have a case.
Once your employer becomes aware that you have a medical condition or disability, they are obligated under the law to engage in a good faith interactive process with you in order to determine what accommodations you may need and if they can provide them. The term “good faith” means that your employer must promptly and honestly discuss your available options and that they cannot simply “go through the motions” and arbitrarily deny your requests.
If you can still perform the essential functions of your job with or without the accommodations, your employer must grant them unless they can prove it would be an unreasonable financial burden for them to do so. Therefore, it is important that you know the essential functions of your job and that you receive a list of essential functions from your employer that accurately reflects them.
Get Help from Experienced Los Angeles Disability Discrimination Attorneys
If you have been discriminated or retaliated against because you requested a disability accommodation or if you have been denied such an accommodation, the experienced discrimination lawyers at Workers’ Advocate Law Group can help you understand your legal rights and options. You may also want to consider speaking with your supervisor, human resources representative or a person who may be in charge of disability accommodation.
Count on an experienced lawyer from Workers’ Advocate Law Group who has extensive experience in fighting for their clients’ employment rights. You can contact our firm online to schedule your free consultation in English or Spanish today. Our team will be more than happy to assist you accordingly.