Many people working in California deal with physical and mental disabilities. It is unlawful for employers to discriminate against employees or job applicants based on their disability, and employers are likewise legally obligated to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.
The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits disability discrimination for employers with 15 or more employees. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits disability discrimination in California for employers with 5 or more employees. Unfortunately, despite the ADA and the FEHA, many employers do not understand or comply with anti-discrimination laws. Disability discrimination and failure to accommodate are some of the most reported issues in the California workplace, and nation-wide.
How can you Prove Disability Discrimination at the Workplace?
If you feel that you are experiencing disability discrimination in your workplace, you may have the right to pursue claims against your employer for damages or to get the accommodations that you need. Here are some important steps to take to pursue a workplace disability discrimination case:
You must prove that you have a qualifying disability
A qualifying disability is a health issue, temporary or permanent, that hinders with your ability to perform your job duties. Having a past record of disability, or being perceived as having a disability, may also qualify.
You must inform your employer of your disability
It is important to tell your employer of your disability, or history of disability, and that you may need accommodations to perform your job duties. Unless your employer is aware of your disability, you will not be able to show that your employer has discriminated against you because of your disability, or that your employer is failing to provide you with the accommodations that you require because of your disability.
You must demonstrate that you are qualified for your job
You must be able to show that you are qualified for the job position, and that you would be able to perform all required job duties with (or without) a reasonable accommodation. A reasonable accommodation is considered a change to your work environment, work duties, or work schedule that will help you perform your job, that does not cause “undue hardship” to your employer.
You must show that you have suffered discrimination due to your disability -or- that you have been denied your right to accommodations
It is illegal for your employer to treat you unfavorably because of your disability or perceived disability. For example, if you are not hired, not promoted, demoted, fired, or treated more poorly then others because of your disability, your employer has broken the law. It is also illegal for your employer harass you because of your disability or fail to prevent harassment in the workplace. To prove discrimination, gather and record evidence about the discriminatory treatment; write down notes, save emails and text messages, and keep other relevant documents.
It is also illegal for your employer to fail to provide reasonable accommodations. Your employer is required to try to provide reasonable accommodations that will allow you to perform your essential job duties. If your employer is not able to provide reasonable accommodations, they must engage in an interactive process to try to find you a new job position that you will be able to do.
Next steps: If you’ve experienced disability discrimination in your workplace
If you are experiencing disability discrimination, you may file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, and/or reach out to an employment attorney.