Life can be difficult when you have a disability or disabling medical condition. Life is unnecessarily more difficult when you encounter discrimination at work because of your disability or medical condition. To combat discrimination against employees with disabilities and medical conditions, California has enacted some of the strongest anti-discrimination laws in the country.
California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits discrimination and harassment based on a protected physical disability, mental disability or medical condition. FEHA also prohibits discrimination based on permanent disabilities, temporary disabilities, and perceived disabilities.
If you believe you have been treated unfairly at work because you have a physical or mental disability or medical condition, we encourage you to call a disability discrimination attorney at Custis Law, P.C. to see how our Los Angeles employment lawyers can help. You may be entitled to compensation. We will evaluate your claims, explain the discrimination laws and your legal options, and propose a strategy to obtain the justice you deserve.
We handle all discrimination cases on a contingency basis. That means you pay nothing until we obtain a settlement or verdict for you. Contact us online or at (213) 863-4276 to schedule a free, initial consultation.
What Types of Disabilities and Medical Conditions are Protected in California
California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) protects employees who have certain physical disabilities, mental disabilities, and medical conditions.
- Physical Disabilities. A protected physical disability includes any physiological disease, disorder, condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss that (1) affects one or more of several body systems and (2) limits a major life activity (like, for example, working at your job). Examples of “body systems” include the neurological, immunological, musculoskeletal, respiratory, speech organs, cardiovascular, reproductive and digestive systems.
- Mental Disabilities. A protected mental disability means a mental or psychological disorder or condition that limits a major life activity or that requires special education or related services.
- Medical Conditions. A protected medical condition means an impairment associated with a diagnosis of cancer or certain genetic characteristics (genes known to cause a disease, or inherited characteristics are known to cause or increase the risk of developing a disease).
Some employees and applicants may also seek protection under the FEHA when they do not have a protected disability or medical condition. For example, you are covered if you have a history of a protected disability or medical condition that is known to your employer. You are also covered if the employer incorrectly perceives or treats you as having a protected disability or medical condition, or of having such a disability or condition in the past. You are also covered when the employer perceives or treats you as having a protected disability or medical condition that does not have any current disabling effects, but may become disabling in the future.
The disability discrimination lawyers at Custis Law, P.C. can help you assess whether or not you have a protected disability or medical condition, or can otherwise state a disability discrimination claim under the FEHA. Contact us online or at (213) 863-4276 for a free, confidential consultation.
Your Employer’s Duties Under California Law
Employers typically discriminate on the basis of a disability or medical condition in three general ways: (1) an employer might wrongfully terminate you or take another adverse employment action against you because of your disability or medical condition; (2) an employer might fail to reasonably accommodate your disability or medical condition; or (3) an employer might fail to engage in a good faith interactive process with you to determine whether or not your disability or medical condition can be reasonably accommodated.
No Adverse Employment Actions
FEHA prohibits employers of five or more employees from taking adverse employment action against employees or job applicants because of a protected disability or medical condition. An “adverse employment action” is a legal term. It means that the employer made a decision that negatively impacts an applicant or employee’s job performance or opportunity for advancement or promotion in a significant way. Common examples include firing, failing to hire or promote, demotion, a reduction in salary, and a significant loss of benefits.
FEHA also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for individuals with a protected disability or medical condition to apply for jobs and to perform the essential functions of their jobs unless it would cause an undue hardship. A reasonable accommodation is a change or adjustment to the position, or work environment, that enables you to perform the essential functions of the job the same way that individuals without disabilities do. An undue hardship typically means it would be significantly difficult or expensive to implement the change.
Common examples of reasonable accommodations include:
- Modifying work schedules, including allowing part-time work
- Allowing employees to work from home
- Adjusting or modifying exams, training materials, and policies
- Providing readers or interpreters
- Providing modified equipment or devices like ramps
- Providing modified furniture
- Making the office environment readily accessible
Employees with disabilities and medical conditions may also have separate rights to unpaid leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), and the California Pregnancy Leave Law (PDL).
Good Faith Interactive Process
A “good faith interactive process” is a conversation between an employee and employer to define: (1) what limitations an employee may have as a result of a disability; and (2) whether—and, if so, how—the employer can reasonably accommodate those limitations so as to enable the employee to continue performing his or her job. An employer is obligated to have such a conversation when an applicant or employee requests reasonable accommodations.
An employer is also obligated to start such a conversation when the employer becomes aware of the possible need for an accommodation. An employer may become aware of the need to engage in the interactive process through a third party, by observing an employee with a protected disability or medical condition, or because the employee has exhausted leave benefits but still needs reasonable accommodation.
If you believe your employer has discriminated against you or treated you unfairly because of your disability or medical condition, we can help. Contact us now online or at (213) 863-4276 for a free and confidential consultation.
What You Can Do Now About Disability Discrimination
If you believe you may have a claim for workplace discrimination, you can take a number of steps to protect yourself and preserve your legal rights.
Keep a journal of the discriminatory acts and harassment you've experienced because of your medical condition or disability, including dates, places, times, names of the persons involved and names of witnesses. Keep this journal at home or in a safe place, and not at work.
Report It in Writing
Many employers have disability discrimination policies in their employee handbook. If your employer does, follow the procedure in the handbook for reporting disability discrimination. If your employer does not, make a written report to your supervisor or someone in human resources. This report does not need to be long or formal. An email will work fine.
Keep copies of emails and other documents that you have sent or received from your employer regarding your complaint. Keep copies of emails and other documents, too, that you have received that you suspect are discriminatory or harassing. If your employer has an employee handbook, obtain a copy. Also, keep copies of positive performance reviews and letters. Keep these records at home or in a safe place, and not at work.
No one wants to experience disability discrimination at work. We understand that. But employees who quit before reporting disability discrimination will have a more difficult time winning a lawsuit. If you’re experiencing a stressful workplace, talk to an experienced employment attorney about how to preserve your legal claims.
Take Care of Yourself
Seek professional counseling or treatment if you are experiencing emotional distress, anxiety, depression or other psychological symptoms because of disability discrimination.