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California Disability Discrimination Laws

California is known for its strong labor laws, especially when it comes to protecting employees with disabilities. Disability discrimination in the workplace is not only unethical but also illegal under both state and federal laws. If you are an employee in California, understanding your rights and the protections under these laws is crucial.

Laws Protecting Employees with Disabilities

Two primary laws protect employees with disabilities in California:

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

This federal law prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs. It applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)

FEHA provides broader protections than the ADA and applies to employers with five or more employees. It prohibits employment discrimination based on physical or mental disabilities.

What Is a Disability Under the Law

Both the ADA and FEHA provide definitions of what constitutes a disability. Under these laws, a disability is broadly defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Physical conditions affecting bodily systems (e.g., neurological, musculoskeletal, respiratory).
  • Mental or psychological disorders (e.g., intellectual disability, emotional or mental illness).
  • Conditions such as cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, and HIV/AIDS.

FEHA’s definition is particularly inclusive, covering conditions that limit a major life activity, even if the limitation is minor or mitigated by medication or other measures.

Employer Obligations and Reasonable Accommodations

Employers in California are required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, unless doing so would cause undue hardship. Reasonable accommodations can include:

  • Modifying work schedules or duties.
  • Providing assistive devices or equipment.
  • Making facilities accessible.
  • Allowing leaves of absence for medical treatment.

FEHA mandates that employers engage in a timely and good-faith dialogue with the employee to identify appropriate accommodations.

Prohibited Actions by Employers

Under ADA and FEHA, employers are prohibited from:

  • Discriminating in hiring, firing, promotions, pay, and other terms of employment based on disability.
  • Harassing an employee due to their disability.
  • Retaliating against an employee for asserting their rights under disability discrimination laws.

Additionally, employers cannot inquire about an applicant’s disability during the hiring process or require medical examinations before making a job offer, except under specific circumstances.

Steps to Take if You Experience Discrimination

If you believe you have been discriminated against in the workplace due to your disability, you have several options:

  • Internal Complaint: Start by following your employer’s internal complaint procedures, if available. This might resolve the issue without further action.
  • File a Complaint with the CRD: You can file a complaint with California‚Äôs Civil Rights Department (CRD). This step is necessary before you can file a lawsuit under FEHA.
  • Seek Legal Advice: Consulting an experienced Los Angeles disability discrimination attorney can help you understand your rights and the strength of your case. They can also assist you in navigating the complaint process and represent you in legal proceedings if necessary.

Filing a Lawsuit

If your issue is not resolved through the CRD, you may receive a “Right to Sue” notice, allowing you to file a lawsuit in civil court. Under FEHA, you must file a lawsuit within one year of receiving the notice. In a lawsuit, you may seek remedies such as:

  • Reinstatement to your job.
  • Back pay and front pay.
  • Compensation for emotional distress.
  • Punitive damages in cases of egregious conduct.
  • Attorney’s fees and costs.

If you believe you have been subjected to disability discrimination, taking timely action and seeking legal advice can help you secure the justice and accommodations you deserve. Contact an employment attorney in LA today.