Disability Discrimination

Under both federal and California law, employers cannot discriminate against applicants or employees who have  disabilities.  This protection extends to current disabilities, a history of disabilities, or any relation to a person with disabilities.  Employers are also prohibited from discriminating against applicants or employees because of a perceived medical condition or disability. 

Additionally, if an employer knows that an employee has a disability or medical condition, the employer must engage in an interactive process with that employee to determine what accommodations are available.  The employer must also provide a reasonable accommodation to the employee unless it would be an undue hardship or put the employee or other employees at risk.  A failure to do violates both federal and California disability discrimination law.

Information about Disability Discrimination in California

Under California law, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), passed in 1974, protects disabled employees from being discriminated against in the workplace.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is its federal counterpart.  The ADA defines the term “disability” as having a “physical or mental impairment that can substantially limit one or more important life activities.” However, the FEHA has a broader and more forgiving definition that makes it easier to file a claim. Under the FEHA, a disability can be defined as a physical or mental impairment that limits a major life function, such as working.  Under the FEHA, stress, anxiety, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, frequent urination, and PTSD would all qualify as disabilities.  Of course, more serious medical conditions, such as lupus, cancer and multiple sclerosis are covered as well. 

In order to be protected under disability discrimination laws, an employee must meet one of the following conditions:

  • Have a physical or mental condition limiting a major life activity;
  • Have a record or history of a condition; OR
  • Is regarded as having an impairment and subjected to discrimination as a result of the perceived impairment.

California discrimination laws also protect employees who take care of people who have disabilities, in certain circumstances. So, if you have a child or parent with a disability you may be protected under the FEHA.

Types of Disability Discrimination

There are some obvious types of disability discrimination in the workplace such as being fired or demoted; not getting hired for a job; or having your work hours reduced because of a disability. Other less obvious types of disability discrimination include being bullied, teased, or ostracized by your co-workers. 

An employer can also be liable under the FEHA if a disabled employee requests an accommodation, and the employer either refuses to accommodate the employee or to discuss alternative solutions.  These accommodations can be as Ssimple as giving an employee a break every two hours to go to the bathroom or close his or her strained eyes, or allowing an employee to leave work an hour early once a week to attend a medical appointment.  Other accommodations employees commonly request include alterations to their work stations or time off.  An employer may not retaliate against an employee for requesting an accommodation.

To learn more about failure to accommodate, click here.

Size of Employers Covered

The ADA generally applies to employers with 15 or more employees for each working day.  The California Fair Employment and Housing Act protects employees and applicants of employers with five or more employees. 

Disability Discrimination Lawyer in Oakland

The attorneys at Hunter Pyle Law have successfully represented many employees who were discriminated against on the basis of their disability.  Here is an example of just a few of the discrimination cases that disability discrimination attorneys Hunter Pyle and Tanya Tambling have worked on:

  • Employee working for a real estate development company was terminated after telling her boss that she needed to see her doctor for stress and anxiety.  This case went to arbitration and the employee was awarded nearly $1 million in emotional distress and economic damages and attorneys’ fees.
  • Employee working in a warehouse suffered from Bell’s Palsy and debilitating migraines.  When he returned to work, his co-workers mocked him.  His supervisor wrote him up whenever he came to work late because he was having a migraine.  The case settled for a confidential amount at mediation.
  • Employee suffering from fibromyalgia was terminated from a large company after she made multiple requests for accommodations, including a revised work station, a work space without a vent blasting cold air on her, and visits to medical providers.  This case settled at mediation for a confidential amount.

If you feel as though you may have been discriminated against based on your disability or if your company has not made the proper changes to accommodate your disability, contact us today for a free and confidential intake.