Research shows that almost 49 million people—nearly 20% of the population—in the United States live with some type of disability. Not only do people with disabilities make up a significant percentage of society, but they are also present in the U.S. workforce. The law strictly protects such individuals’ right to pursue a successful career and support themselves.
Many employers might be skeptical when it comes to hiring individuals with disabilities, but both state and federal law is clear: if an applicant can perform the job, whether or not they have a disability should not be a consideration. Both federal law and California state law prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants or employees on the basis of actual or perceived disabilities.
If you believe that an employer engaged in unlawful discrimination based on a disability, you have important rights. You should contact our team of employment discrimination attorneys in Los Angeles to discuss your rights and legal options.
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)
Statewide protections for disabled individuals in employment falls under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). The law specifically states that no employer may base employment decisions on certain protected characteristics, which include:
- Physical disability
- Mental disability
- Medical conditions
The law defines employment actions and decisions as:
- Refusing to hire or employ the individual
- Refusing to select them for training that leads to employment
- Barring them from employment or training
- Discriminating against them in compensation
- Discriminating against them in regards to any privileges, terms, or conditions of employment
The law also allows individuals with disabilities to request reasonable accommodations that better allow them to perform their jobs. Such accommodations might include providing accessible workspaces, modifying equipment, providing interpreters or readers, and more. The law states that employers should provide such accommodations so employees with disabilities can perform their job duties to the best of their abilities.
There are several exceptions to these laws when it comes to disabilities or medical conditions. First, employers do not have to hire or continue to employ individuals whose disabilities or medical conditions prevent them from performing the essential duties of their jobs—even with reasonable accommodations—in a healthy and safe manner. Employers also do not have to provide accommodations that would result in unreasonable hardships for the employer.
The California Family Rights Act
Another law that protects the rights of disabled workers is the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). Due to their conditions, many people with disabilities may need to take time off at varying times. The CFRA is similar to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in that it allows qualified employees to take leave for qualified reasons without fear of losing their jobs or other forms of retaliation.
The CFRA allows for 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period for serious medical conditions. Employees are eligible if they work for a company with 50 or more employees and they have worked there for at least one year. The right to such leave is important because all employees, not just those with disabilities, will likely experience medical issues in some form during their careers.
Violations of the law
Despite these fairly straightforward laws, many employers continue to engage in unlawful acts targeted at applicants or employees with disabilities. Some common violations include:
- Inquiring about a possible disability in an interview or on an application
- Requiring employees with disabilities to submit to a medical exam when others in the same position do not have to do so
- Refusing to promote or transfer an employee with a disability to a more desirable job assignment in favor of someone without a disability
- Refusing a reasonable accommodation that would not cause hardship to the employer
- Denying the employee qualified leave for a medical condition
- Allowing harassment of the employee based on their disability
- Terminating an employee because of their disability, even though they could perform their job
- Retaliating against an employee who complains about discrimination or harassment in the workplace
Employees who experience disability discrimination at work are not always sure what their rights are or how to go about protecting and enforcing them. This is just one of the reasons why you should always consult with an experienced discrimination attorney. At Blair & Ramirez LLP, our attorneys have years of experience working with, and advocated for, disabled workers and their rights under state and federal law.
In many cases, employers will deny engaging in unlawful disability discrimination. Instead, they will give another false reason for refusing to hire someone, firing someone, or engaging in other types of discriminatory conduct. The right attorney can help you prove that the true reason for the adverse employment action was discrimination based on your disability.
Contact an experienced disability discrimination lawyer in California
At Blair & Ramirez LLP, we help clients who experience all types of discrimination, including that based on a real or perceived disability. We know how to stand up for your rights and the compensation you deserve for your employer’s actions. Call (213) 568-4000 or contact us for a case evaluation today.