Understanding disability discrimination in California

If you suffer from a disability, both state and federal laws protect your ability to work so long as you can perform the essential duties of your job with reasonable accommodation. If you find yourself struggling at work, you should consider whether your challenges are resulting from not being accommodated properly.

Disability Protections Are Much Broader Than Most People Realize

Disability protections in California are very broad, as both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibit disability discrimination in the workplace and enforce equal opportunity to disabled individuals.

If a health condition limits normal life activities, it can be considered a disability. Thus, the law requires disability protections for people in wheelchairs, individuals with limited vision or hearing, and those with chronic diseases including diabetes, cancer, and HIV/Aids. Temporary limitations, like a broken leg or a pregnancy, are also disabilities. Even mental illness, like depression, stress, or anxiety, can be protected by law.  If you suffer from a disability, your employer must accommodate you if there is a reasonable way to do so.

Protections Through the Whole Job Lifecycle

Disability laws provide protection from the day you apply for a job to the day you leave it. This means an employer must evaluate all job applications equally, regardless of actual or perceived disabilities. While employers can ask about an applicant’s ability to do the job, they cannot ask if a person has a disability or shy away from an applicant because he or she requests an accommodation during the interviewing stages.

Most disability discrimination occurs when an employee develops a disability while on the job. However, an employer is required by law to offer reasonable accommodation if available. Every workplace is different, and it is not always obvious whether an accommodation is reasonable. For example, a professional sports league is not required to change its rules to accommodate players with bad knees. Reasonableness requires an employer to engage in a timely, good faith, and interactive process. Common accommodations include altered job duties, adjusted work schedules, relocation of the work area, or providing tools to aid an employee.

An employer cannot fire an employee that develops a disability while on the job if a reasonable accommodation exists, and in many instances, that includes time to heal.

Consult a Disability Discrimination Lawyer

If your employer is not accommodating your disability, even if minor, you may be entitled to certain protections. Call McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP for a free consultation.