Employment Discrimination & Disability Discrimination
Discrimination involves job decisions – such as hiring, firing, and setting work conditions – that are conducted in a discriminatory manner. California employment discrimination law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on:
Frequently Asked Questions About Disability Discrimination
The questions and answers presented in the FAQ are not intended to be exhaustive and do not constitute legal advice for your particular question, issue, or concern, nor does this FAQ create any attorney-client relationship or duty on our part to assist you. The information may help you think about your issues and ask the right questions if you choose to consult with an attorney.
I have a disability. Am I protected?
California employment discrimination law prohibits employers for discriminating against employees based on “protected characteristics,” which include race, gender, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, or religion, among others. If you believe your employer is discriminating against you based on one of these characteristics, they may be violating the law.
How do I know if I’ve been the subject of discrimination based on my disability?
Disability discrimination can take many forms, including but not limited to terminating the employee, refusing to promote the employee, refusing to give the employee a raise when otherwise justified, and providing different work assignments or training. Employers can legally refuse to hire you if you do not meet the requirements for the job. However, if you do meet the requirements, an employer cannot reject you based on your disability.
Can my employer ask me to submit to a medical exam as a condition of employment?
Generally, employers in California are not allowed to require an employee to submit to a medical exam as a condition of employment. However, employers may require that employees submit to medical exams if they have reasonable suspicion that an employee is impaired due to the use of drugs or alcohol. Additionally, employers may require medical exams after an employee has been offered a job, but only if the exams are job-related and necessary for the employer to determine if the employee is able to perform the essential functions of the job.
Is my boss required to accommodate my disability?
Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees if the cost of such accommodation does not create an undue hardship for the company. Undue hardship is primarily determined by the level of financial impact an accommodation might have on a business, given the business’ size and resources.
What is a reasonable accommodation?
Examples of reasonable accommodations may include adapting equipment, exams or training materials, helping ensure access to facilities, changing work schedules, restructuring work duties, or offering readers or interpreters for the visually and hearing impaired.
Do I have to disclose or share details about my disability to receive accommodation?
You must disclose that you have a disability to your employer or someone who represents your employer, such as your manager or HR personnel to qualify for a reasonable accommodation. You may be asked for reasonable medical documentation to show that you do in fact have the disability, such as a doctor’s note, but you do not need to provide intimate details of your condition, such as medical or psychiatric records. Your employer is legally required at minimum to engage in a reasonable accommodation process with you once they are on notice of your disability.
Is a disability claim different from a workers’ comp claim? Can I have both?
Workers’ compensation provides benefits to workers who are injured on the job, or whose existing health issue or disability is worsened by the job. Disability protections, on the other hand, protect disabled employees from discrimination at work and require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for their disability so they can perform their jobs. Workers can qualify for both.
My employer has discriminated against me because of a disability. What can I do?
You can file a claim with the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) if you have been subject to discrimination. Alternatively, you can contact a lawyer to bring claims against your employer in court. Before bringing the claims in court, you will have to obtain a right to sue letter from the CRD. An attorney can help you with that.
What can I do if I am fired, disciplined, or treated worse after complaining about disability discrimination?
If you have a disability and are subject to retaliatory action after complaining about disability discrimination against yourself or your coworkers, your employer may be breaking the law. Examples of retaliatory actions include, but are not limited to, firing an employee who speaks up, disciplining them (including coming up with pretextual reasons for the discipline), or treating them worse than before. An attorney can help analyze the details of your case and any potential claims you may have.
What do I need to tell my employer in writing about my disability?
There are no specific details or legal phrases that must be used when informing your employer about a disability or requesting reasonable accommodation. Just letting them know that you have a disability and need assistance is enough to initiate a reasonable accommodation process. Additionally, your request for reasonable accommodation can take place in writing, by phone, through an in-person conversation, or any other form of communication. However, written records of your request such as emails can be useful to help keep track of your communication efforts, in case your employer tries to deny that you ever made the request.
California employment discrimination law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on:
- Race, color or ethnicity
- National origin and ancestry
- Age (40 and over)
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity, gender expression
- Pregnancy (including childbirth, breastfeeding)
- Disability and medical condition, mental and physical
- Marital status
California employment discrimination law also prohibits employers from discriminating because of the employer’s perception that the worker has a protected trait or because the worker has associated with or advocated for coworkers who have these protected traits.
Employers that commit or fail to address discrimination in the workplace may be held accountable by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the California Civil Rights Department (CRD).
If you believe you have faced discrimination in the workplace due to your race, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy, disability, or age, our team can help you assess your legal options and determine the best course forward. We represent employees in CRD and EEOC complaints and in discrimination lawsuits.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
How Does the ADA Define ‘Disability’?
Disability Discrimination in California Workplaces
Discrimination against people with disabilities occurs whenever an employer or potential employer treats you differently because of a disability. Disability cannot be a reason for a potential employer to deny your application if you are applying for a job you are capable of doing. A potential employer can, however, deny your application if you do not meet the qualifications for the job. As an employee or applicant, you also have the right to reasonable accommodations so long as they do not cause undue hardship for the employer.
Disability Discrimination in Real Work Situations
Often, people think disability discrimination only involves people not being hired or being fired because of their disability. But there are many more aspects to what may constitute disability discrimination. An employer may not base the following on your disability:
- Job assignments
There is some protection for employers in that they are permitted to ask medical questions and require the applicant to submit to a medical examination. Applicants may be required to pass such a test in order to obtain employment. There must, however, be the same questions and/or exam given to all new applicants.
Harassment & Disability Discrimination
In addition, employers cannot harass employees because of their disabilities. Employees who complain about harassment cannot be fired or demoted by their employers. While isolated incidents of minor teasing may not be actionable, ongoing negative remarks about a disability to the point where it results in a hostile work environment is illegal. Employees can be harassed by their co-workers, supervisors, managers, clients, or customers.
Reasonable Accommodation for Employees with Disabilities
Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodation to make the disabled employee’s task easier as long as the change is not financially prohibitive. Examples of reasonable accommodation include:
- Ensuring access to existing facilities (e.g. ramps and automatic doors for wheelchair users)
- Restructuring of jobs
- Adapting equipment, exams, or training materials
- Changing work schedules
- Offering qualified readers or interpreters for the visually and hearing impaired
For a change to be considered undue hardship, the accommodation would have to be too expensive in comparison to the size and financial resources of the company. Employers may choose a different accommodation from what the employee requests as long as it gives the employee what they need to work.
Our California Disability Discrimination Lawyers Will Fight For You
You can turn to our attorneys at Valerian Law if you believe that you have been discriminated against because of your disability. Situations like yours can be upsetting and unfair, and we want to fight for the compensation and justice you deserve. If you are a victim of disability discrimination in California, contact us at 888-686-1918 to speak with one of our experienced California employment attorneys.