What Qualifies as Workplace Disability Discrimination Under California Law?
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What Qualifies as Workplace Disability Discrimination Under California Law?

What Qualifies as Workplace Disability Discrimination Under California Law?

According to the CDC, as many as 27% of adults in the United States, or nearly 70 million people, have some form of disability. Over 4 million disabled Americans live in California, representing over 10% of the state’s population.

Disabled individuals regularly face mistreatment at work, whether due to reduced mobility, vision, hearing, cognitive capabilities, or other types of impairment. If you experience prejudice or harassment by your employer, you may be able to file a disability discrimination claim in California.

An experienced California disability discrimination attorney can determine if you have a viable case and protect your rights when filing a claim or lawsuit.

What is Disability Discrimination?

Disability discrimination (DD) is when an individual is treated differently, unfairly, or neglected due to their disabled status. This can take many forms, such as disparaging verbal statements, failing to provide reasonable accommodations at work, or terminating employment.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law providing disabled individuals protection against discrimination nationwide. It broadly defines a disabled person as someone with physical or mental disabilities that limits one or more major life activities.

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the Unruh Civil Rights Act (Unruh Act) include additional provisions protecting disabled people from discrimination in the workplace. The California Civil Rights Department (CRD) enforces these laws and allows victims to file a complaint when discriminated against by employers.

What Qualifies for Disability Protection in the Workplace?

Proving a disability discrimination case requires establishing you have a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Section 12102(A) of this law defines a disability as any mental or physical impairment that limits someone from performing one or multiple major life activities or impairs a major bodily function.

Examples of disabilities that qualify you as disabled under the ADA include:

  • Blindness or severe visual impairment
  • Cancer and other conditions affecting healthy cell growth
  • Chronic conditions, such as diabetes or epilepsy
  • Deafness or significant hearing loss
  • Immune system diseases, such as HIV/AIDS
  • Intellectual disabilities, such as Down syndrome or fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)
  • Mental health impairments such as schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, or major depression
  • Mobility impairments, such as missing limbs or paralysis

What Counts as Disability Discrimination?

While disability discrimination can take on many forms, disability discrimination at work is one of the most common and devastating for victims. It can impact your ability to live independently and earn a living and cause emotional distress, affecting your mental health.

Common examples of workplace disability discrimination include:

  • Hiring bias. This discrimination occurs when disabled individuals are overlooked for jobs or promotions. For instance, a qualified person is not hired simply because of their disability, like using a wheelchair.
  • Inadequate accommodations. This refers to not providing reasonable accommodations for disabled employees, such as failing to install a ramp for someone who uses a wheelchair.
  • Workplace harassment. This involves mistreating employees due to their disabilities, like a colleague making derogatory remarks about another’s disability.
  • Employee segregation. This discrimination happens when disabled employees are kept away from certain roles or activities, like not allowing someone with a disability to interact with clients.
  • Excessive scrutiny. Disabled employees might face unfair and frequent evaluations, for example, being monitored more closely than their non-disabled peers without any valid reason.

What to Do if You Experience Disability Discrimination at Work?

If you have experienced disability discrimination by an employer in California, you can take steps to protect your rights and potentially receive compensation. Here’s what you should do:

  • Document or record the incident. Keep detailed records of the incident to establish what occurred and provide a basis for your claim. Include dates, times, locations, people involved, and detailed accounts of the events. Witness statements and video footage can also strengthen your case.
  • Follow internal reporting procedures. File an internal complaint and follow all reporting protocols at your workplace. This creates a record of your complaints and shows that your employer, including HR or upper management, was aware of the issue and failed to address it.
  • File a complaint with California authorities. If you cannot report internally or internal reporting hasn’t resolved the issue, file a complaint with the CRD within three years of the incident. They will investigate your claim and file a lawsuit against your workplace if they find reasonable cause. This can result in a settlement, compensating you for lost wages or other damages like emotional distress.
  • Seek legal advice. An experienced California disability discrimination attorney can help you review your case, provide relevant guidance, collect additional evidence, and offer legal options. They can also represent you in a lawsuit against your employer, helping you receive a fair settlement.

Protect Your Rights After Experiencing Disability Discrimination

Suffering discrimination due to your disability is unfair and illegal. If you experience mistreatment based on your disability status, knowing your legal options can protect your rights to fair treatment and compensation.

Remember to follow the internal reporting channels after a discrimination incident, keep all documents and proof of the discrimination, and connect with an attorney before filing your official complaint with the CRD. These steps can protect your rights and help you receive a settlement compensating for your losses.



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