California Law Protects Employees with Potential or Perceived Disabilities

While California law protects employees who are disabled, it also protects workers whose employers perceive them to have a physical or mental impairment that is disabling, potentially disabling, or perceived as disabling or potentially disabling. See Cal. Gov’t Code § 12926.1(b). In other words, California law protects workers from adverse employment actions because their employer “erroneously or mistakenly believed” them to have or have had a disability. See Cal. Gov’t Code § 12926.1(d).

For example, in one case, Moore v. Regents of Univ. of Cal,. 248 Cal.App.4th 216 (2016), an employee had a heart condition and wore a “LifeVest” to work that served as an external defibrillator. While she assured her employer that she would be able to carry out her job duties, in response, her employer stated that she was a “liability to the department.” Thereafter, her employer terminated her employment. The Court found that the employer’s “liability to the department” statement could be viewed as evidence of discriminatory animus of a perceived disability.

Moreover, in another case, Soria v. Univision Radio L. A., Inc., 5 Cal.App.5th 570 (2016), an employee had a tumor that was ultimately determined to be malignant. It was undisputed that the tumor did not interfere with her ability to perform her job duties. However, she was eventually terminated. The Court found that the employee still qualified as disabled because when she was terminated, her tumor had the potential to be or become malignant or could continue to grow to limit a major life activity. The Court reasoned: “The Legislature intended to protect employees from adverse employment action by employers concerned about what may happen in the future.”

If you believe your employer is taking an adverse employment action against you because of a potential or perceived disability please feel free to call the experienced workers’ rights attorneys at Hunter Pyle Law, and to make use of our free and confidential initial intake process.  We can be reached at (510) 444-4400, or at