Worker rights under California disability discrimination law

Understanding your rights is the first step towards protecting them

Both California and federal law protect disabled people against employment discrimination. Unfortunately, despite this prohibition, employers treat disabled people unfairly more frequently than most people realize.

If you are disabled and in the workforce, it is important to be aware of your rights under the law. This will help you spot discriminatory treatment when it occurs, so that you can take the appropriate action.

What counts as a disability?

In order to qualify as a disability under California law, the worker's mental or physical condition must "limit a major life activity." This is less restrictive than the federal standard, which requires the condition to create "substantial limitations."

The extent of the limitation is considered separately from anything the worker might use to mitigate it, such as medication or a prosthetic device. Employers may require workers to provide documentation proving the existence and extent of a disability, but the law limits the scope of this inquiry.

What does discrimination look like?

In essence, discrimination occurs whenever an employer treats an employee or job applicant differently on the basis of his or her disability. This can include things like refusing to hire, refusing to promote, paying different wages or assigning less favorable job duties to disabled workers.

Employers cannot refuse to hire someone with a disability simply because it might cause insurance premiums to go up. Employers are also not allowed to ask about a disability in an interview or subject applicants to medical examinations before an offer of employment is made.

The role of reasonable accommodation

Employers do, however, have a right to ensure that their employees are able to complete all of their essential job functions. To this end, disabled workers are allowed to request reasonable accommodations that would allow them to complete the job.

California law requires employers to explore all reasonable accommodations. Accommodations are "reasonable" if they do not impose undue hardships on the employer's business. Some examples include:

  • Changing work schedules
  • Allowing the employee to take medical leave
  • Adding special equipment to the employee's workstation
  • Installing accessibility software on the employee's computer

There several government agencies and vocational experts who can help employers investigate potential accommodations.

If discrimination occurs

When discrimination happens, it is up to the aggrieved employee or applicant to take action. Generally, the best course of action is to schedule a consultation with an experienced employee rights attorney. The attorney can help you determine whether unlawful discrimination occurred and, if it did, what your best options are for taking action.

Depending on the circumstances of the individual case, there could be a variety of remedies available. They include: back pay, hiring or reinstatement, promotion, changes in employer practices and financial compensation for emotional distress.

Protect Your Rights

At the Law Offices of Todd M. Friedman, P.C., an attorney from our firm will work with you directly, examine the details of your case and give you timely feedback into the best approach to take in your claim. Get the help you need. Call 424-285-6006 (877-619-8966 toll free) or email us for a consultation.

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