Disability Discrimination

Discrimination against employees in California because of their physical disability, mental disability, or other medical conditions is unfortunately common. Employers often fire employees or give them inferior working conditions because of the employees’ disability and/or medical condition, sometimes even when the disability occurs at work. If your employer has discriminated against you for a disability by firing you (or other negative actions), or has refused to engage in the interactive process and offer you reasonable accommodations for your disability (see below), you could be a victim of disability discrimination and get money compensation. In order to prove disability discrimination in California, the employee (plaintiff) must prove all of the following:

  1. That the employee has a disability or a medical condition
  2. That the employer took an adverse employment action against the employee (fired, demoted, suspended, etc.)
  3. That the adverse employment action was motivated by the employee’s disability or medical condition.

The disability or condition must be such that it limits a major life activity, meaning it is difficult to accomplish a major life activity. Major life activities are walking, working, sleeping, driving, breathing, etc. Examples of physical disabilities are (but not limited to):

  • Arthritis
  • Hepatitis
  • Obesity
  • Epilepsy
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic conditions such as HIV/AIDS
  • Blindness / Deafness
  • Seizure Disorder
  • Asthma
  • Diabetes
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Heart Disease
  • Other injuries that require surgery such as:
    – Head and brain surgery
    – Eye surgery
    – Shoulder surgery
    – Neck and back surgery
    – Knee and foot surgery
    – Hysterectomy

Examples of mental disabilities are (but not limited to):

  • Intellectual or cognitive disability (formerly referred to as mental retardation)
  • Clinical Depression
  • Organic brain syndrome
  • Emotional or mental illness
  • Specific learning disabilities (such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia and developmental aphasia)
  • Clinical Depression
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)
  • Asperger’s Syndrome
  • Schizophrenia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Any other mental or psychological disorder or condition that requires special education or related services

Reasonable Accommodations

In addition to the prohibition against disability discrimination, employers in California must also provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations for an employee with a disability is an individualized process that depends on the employee’s disability. If an employee in California has a disability, or a medical condition, the employer must make reasonable accommodations for the disability to enable the employee to perform the job (unless it causes undue hardship to the employer). As long as the employer knows about the disability, the employer must engage in the “interactive process” (see below) and provide reasonable accommodations.

Examples of possible accommodations:

  • Making facilities readily accessible to and usable by disabled individuals (for example, providing accessible break rooms, restrooms, training rooms or reserved parking places, etc.)
  • Job restructuring
  • Offering part-time or modified work schedules
  • Reassigning to a vacant position
  • Acquiring or modifying equipment or devices
  • Adjusting or modifying examinations, training materials or policies
  • Providing qualified readers or interpreters
  • Allowing assistive animals on the worksite
  • Altering when and/or how an essential function is performed
  • Permitting an employee to work from home
  • Paid or unpaid leave (if the employee can resume his/her job duties)
  • Other similar accommodations for individuals with disabilities

The Interactive Process

California law requires employers to communicate with disabled employees and engage in the interactive process in order to find a reasonable accommodation so that they can perform their job.  The interactive process is designed to have the employer and employee working together to determine the appropriate reasonable accommodation for that specific employee with a disability. If the employer does not engage in the interactive process and fails to provide an available reasonable accommodation, the employee can file a civil lawsuit against the employer and receive money compensation. Generally, an employer in California must engage in the interactive process when:

  1. The employee requests a reasonable accommodation
  2. When the employer becomes aware of the need for accommodation through a third party or by observation
  3. The employer becomes aware of the possible need for an accommodation because the disabled employee has exhausted his/her leave of absence, and the employee’s doctor indicates that additional accommodation is needed

The employer must engage in the interactive process until the process is over. The process is over when:

1) A reasonable accommodation is found
2) Accommodation causes an undue hardship to the employer
3) No such accommodation is available

If you have been discriminated against by your employer because of a disability, or if your employer has failed to engage in the interactive process and provide a reasonable accommodation, we can help you get justice and money compensation. DBY Law will work aggressively towards finding all the facts and achieving the best results possible to get you what you deserve. Disability discrimination is unfortunately very common in California and employee’s rights are being disregarded. Do not let your employer get away with disability discrimination. Call the firm at (213) 316-8844 today for a free consultation.