People with disabilities are often discriminated against, and workers who take time off due to medical issues are fired rather than shown accommodations. Although most of us at some point in our lives have struggled with a medical condition that made it more difficult to work, employee disabilities are sometimes seen by employers as a hindrance rather than an opportunity to offer compassion and demonstrate fair treatment.
The federal law known as the Americans with Disabilities Act protects these individuals, requiring employers to arrange accommodations for disabled workers that can perform the essential functions of a position, thereby protecting them from discrimination. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) significantly expands upon the federal protections offered to both employees and job applicants. What’s more, on both a state and federal level, employers must participate in an interactive process with disabled workers to figure out what options are available for providing reasonable accommodations.
A General Definition of Disability Discrimination
Although disability discrimination presents itself in many ways, a succinct way of defining it is when a worker is subject to unfavorable treatment at the workplace from their employers because of an actual or perceived disability or a history of a disability. Employees are also guaranteed freedom from discrimination due to a need to care for others who have disabilities. Additionally, it is illegal for an employer to refuse to provide reasonable accommodations to a job applicant or an employee who requests them.
How California Defines Disability
According to California state law, any medical condition that impairs a major life activity, such as the ability to work, can fall under the definition of a disability. A disability need not be a physical impairment, it can take on a number of forms, including mental and psychiatric impairment. The FEHA states that major life activities include activities such as manual tasks, seeing, caring for oneself, working, speaking or hearing.
Disability Discrimination Defined
The following workplace occurrences are considered discrimination and do not have to be tolerated:
Being subject to insulting jokes about your disability.
Being assigned what is considered a bad shift or an unfavorable assignment, or having to deal with scheduling that is intentionally inconvenient.
Having to deal with poor working conditions as punishment for your disability.
Not being provided reasonable accommodations or enough time to finish your work.
Being offered only disparate working conditions.
Not being able to take off of work to make your medical appointments.
Being fired after your employer discovers that you are disabled, mentally or physically.
What are some of the accommodations that I am entitled to at the workplace?
The fact that you may need a little help to complete your job because of a disability does not mean that your employer is justified in refusing to make reasonable accommodations that would allow you to finish your work. In fact, an employer must prove that these accommodations create significant expenses or difficulties in order to refuse to provide them to disabled employees.
Reasonable Accommodations Can Include:
Modification of work schedules.
A leave of absence for recuperation or to obtain medical treatment.
The purchase of new equipment or modification of equipment so that it is accessible to you.
Changes to the workplace, like accessible doors and restrooms, or ramps.
To figure out if an accommodation is a possibility, employers have to make a good faith effort to do so through an interactive process with their disabled workers. Both employer and employee must exchange information about the employee’s ability to work and what accommodations the employer might be able to provide. It’s important for workers to get legal advice during this process to be certain that both they and the employer are meeting their legal obligations.
When it’s time to file a Disability Discrimination Lawsuit
To be considered for disability protection under the law, you must first be qualified for the position that is being held in question, and have a disability as it is defined legally. Seek the guidance of a California disability discrimination attorney so that they can help you handle the filing process from start to finish.
You’ll want to make sure your lawyer acts fast – there are strict time limits imposed on when you can file a discrimination complaint. It’s wise to document the discrimination, be it through emails, other employees or witnesses, memos or similar documentation, and follow the internal policies your employer has set for those interested in making a disability discrimination complaint. Your attorney will then file a complaint with the proper government agency.
What are some of the damages that I can recover?
If you have been illegally terminated or subject to harassment because of a disability, you may be able to recover:
Future or past lost wages or employee benefits.
Punitive damages, or damages for emotional stress and pain and suffering.
Attorney’s fees and court costs.
Hiring costs or reinstatement.
The Employee Rights Law Group is comprised of compassionate attorneys and legal experts who want to help you through this difficult time in your life. We define success as more than just recovering a large sum in legal damages. To us, success is truly understanding our clients’ experiences. We hope that if you have any questions or concerns you will fill out our online form or call us today at (310) 488-9020 to find out more about the services we can provide for you.