• Posted By Sirmabekian
  • 2022

We often encourage employees to know their rights as workers so that they can protect them. What are your rights as a California worker, and what are the rights of disabled employees in California specifically? Both federal and state laws grant protections for disabled workers, who have the right to be free from discrimination, unequal treatment and improper termination. While these terms can seem nebulous, they have very precise legal specifications. We discuss them further here.

What Constitutes Disability?

Legally, disability refers to a physical or mental impairment which significantly limits one or more major life activities. Another term you will hear often is “qualified employees”, which refers to those who can perform the job’s essential tasks, whether or not they have been provided with “reasonable accommodation” (another term which we will discuss later on) to do so. 

Freedom from Discrimination

Discrimination against qualified disabled workers in California is illegal. This has been enshrined in:

  • The Federal Americans with Disability Act (ADA) – which applies to employers with at least 15 employees
  • The Unruh Civil Rights Act
  • Disabled Persons Act 
  • The Fair Employment and Housing Act of 1980 (FEHA) – which applies to employers with at least 5 employees

The Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 also ensures that federal employers are prohibited from discriminating against their employees on the grounds of disability. The law requires that disabled employees are given the same opportunities for benefits, work, pay and advancement as their counterparts without a disability. Discrimination can take myriad forms, such as:

  • Firing disabled workers without just cause
  • Hiring discrepancies
  • Unequal payment
  • Unequal job opportunities
  • Failing to either discuss or provide reasonable accommodation to disabled employees
  • Unequal access to facilities

Here are further examples of unlawful discrimination in the workplace. Not all forms of discrimination are explicit, and many types of discrimination may be difficult to identify superficially.

What is Reasonable Accommodation?

Under California law, employers are required to make reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities. Accommodation lets disabled workers perform the same roles and tasks as employees who do not have disabilities. Such accommodation includes:

  • Providing wheelchair-accessible facilities
  • Modifying furniture, equipment or other devices
  • Permitting employees to work remotely, if this does not stop them from performing their workplace duties effectively. 

Employers are not required to provide accommodation that is deemed to cause them “undue hardship”. Undue hardship can refer to an action requiring “significant difficulty or expense” on the employer’s part. While these terms can seem vague, California courts can assess factors that contribute to undue hardship claims. These include both the nature and cost of the accommodation required, the employer’s overall financial resources, and the nature of the facility being discussed.

Help with Disability Discrimination

Are you a disabled worker who feels that you are being discriminated against? Reach out to a reputable discrimination lawyer for representation or advice. You deserve equal rights to work and equal pay, in an environment where you can expect fair and reasonable treatment. Contact us today to find more about how we can help.  

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