Fighting Discrimination Against Disabled Employees

Updated: Jun 22, 2021

Find A California Labor Law Attorney for Disability Discrimination Claims


In California, an employer cannot discriminate nor retaliate against a disabled employee. On top of that, disabled employees also have the right to fair accommodations. So if your employer has violated your disability protection rights, consult a California Employment Attorney right away.



What is Employment Disability Discrimination in California?


Discrimination in the workplace is illegal under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). If you believe your employer has discriminated against or harassed you because of such disability, or if they have failed to accommodate your disability, you should contact an Employment Attorney in California.


Who Can Sue for Disability Discrimination?


Disability discrimination legislation in California divides "disabilities" into three categories:

  1. Physical disabilities. Any physiological sickness, ailment, condition, aesthetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss that" impacts one or more body systems and inhibits one or more main life activities Limiting "a significant life activity" means "making the key life activity difficult to achieve."

  2. Mental disabilities. Any mental or psychological ailment or condition that inhibits a significant life activity, such as learning disabilities, organic brain syndrome, mental or emotional illness, or specialized learning challenges.

  3. Medical problems. Any health problem caused by or linked to a cancer diagnosis, a cancer record or history, or hereditary characteristics.

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What Qualifies as Acts of Disability Discrimination?


Disability discrimination is characterized by an employer making employment decisions rooted in bias against a disabled employee and failure to accommodate the said employee.


A. Employment Bias

One factor of discrimination is when an employer makes employment decisions based on their bias against a disabled employee. These employment decisions range from hiring to termination.

Here are some examples of employment decisions that might qualify as disability discrimination:

  1. Refusal to hire an applicant. If an employer or hiring team refuses to hire an otherwise qualified applicant solely due to their disabilities, they might claim disability discrimination.

  2. Refusal to promote. Biased employers may pass on disabled employees for promotions even when they are more deserving of it than their co-workers. This bars a disabled employee from moving up the company ranks.

  3. HR ignores reports of discrimination from co-workers. If you are constantly discriminated against or harassed by co-workers, you should report the incidents to HR. If your HR ignores the complaint or your employer chooses not to take action, it might be a case of disability discrimination.

  4. Retaliation for making reports/complaints. If you reported an incident of discrimination to HR and your boss punishes you (i.e., demotion, suspension, reassignment, pay cuts) to seemingly get back at you is a retaliatory act rooted in discrimination. You should also consult your California Labor Law Attorney for Employment Retaliation claims.

  5. Firing an employee for their disability. Whether as an act of retaliation or bias, employers are prohibited from firing an employee on the grounds of their disability. If you suspect the cause of your firing to be an act of discrimination, you might also consider your case to be a Wrongful Termination Claim.

B. Failure to Accommodate

Disabled employees have the right to fair or reasonable accommodations, and they may request it. The refusal or failure to accommodate an otherwise capable employee might affect their capacity to work.

Here are examples of failure to accommodate:

  1. Failure or refusal to install wheelchair ramps

  2. Failure to provide more comfortable chairs/seating arrangements

  3. Failure to provide access to necessities (i.e., water stations, bathrooms)

Remember that if you do not make a request, the company is not responsible if you do not receive it. It is also prohibited for an employer to retaliate against an employee who requests reasonable accommodations in California.


Another Note on Accommodations: The Interactive Process


In California, employers are also required to work with employees with disabilities to establish a reasonable accommodation. This is referred to as the "interactive process" in California Government Code 12940. (n).

What if My Employer Tries to Get Back at Me for Filing A Claim?


An employer in California cannot retaliate against a worker who files a discrimination complaint under the FEHA. In most circumstances, FEHA gives employees more protection than a statute like Title VII, but both feature provisions to prevent employers from retaliating against employees who engage in protected behavior.


Retaliation can take numerous forms, including various hostile acts committed against a worker for asserting a protected right. The alleged retaliation had to have had a significant impact on your employment terms and conditions.


To prove retaliation, you must show that you participated in the protected activity of bringing a discrimination complaint, that you were subjected to an adverse employment action, and that the adverse employment action was linked to the complaint filing. To be deemed a protected activity, the complaint does not have to be formal.


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The complaint must be sufficient to alert your employer to the discriminatory behaviors that should be investigated. Furthermore, it would be best to have a reasonable and good faith belief that the discriminatory conduct is illegal. However, you can still sue for retaliatory damages even if the court finds that the activities were not unlawful.


If you are the victim of retaliation in California, you may be able to collect various damages, depending on the sort of adverse action taken against you. Consult a Labor Law Attorney to help you with your Labor Law Claims in California.


What is the Statute of Limitations for Disability Discrimination?


You have a year after the most recent discriminatory incident. If it is a case of Wrongful Termination rooted in discrimination, it is one year after then.


As per discrimination claims in California, you should first report to the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). They could either handle the case for you, or they will give you "the right to sue," where you'll be allowed to forward the claims with a California Employment Law Attorney.


For public entities, the deadlines are different. The statute of limitations in those circumstances might be six months.

Find A Disability Discrimination Attorney in California


Gency.org can help you find a Contingency Lawyer for your Employment Claims in California. No win, no fees! Complete our submission form for a free case review.


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