The American with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal law which prohibits discrimination on the job against workers with disabilities. The ADA is an extremely important form of protection for disabled workers, who can often be the victims of exclusion and unfair employment decisions or practices simply because of their disability.
The ADA specifically prohibits discrimination in certain employment situations. For example, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate in hiring and discharge decisions, as well as in employment practices, including, but not limited to, promotions, compensation and job training. Just about any discriminatory term, condition or privilege of employment can be held illegal in a court of law.
Californian Protection Under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)
Beyond federal law, each state also has its own anti-discrimination law which also applies to disabled workers. In California, this law is called the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). The FEHA is a broadly written law that can offer even broader protection than the ADA.
For instance, under FEHA, the standard for meeting the criteria of a ‘disabled worker’ is much lower than that of the ADA. The ADA requires that the discriminated worker possess a disability that substantially limits a major life activity. Under FEHA, the “substantial” requirement is removed. As a result, a violation under FEHA may occur if the worker is limited in a major life activity, regardless of if he or she is “substantially” limited or not.
There is another significant difference in what amounts to a “major life activity” between the two acts. Under FEHA, work is considered a major life activity. Therefore, under California law, if the disability of an employee limits his or her ability to perform at least one job, the qualifications of the law have generally been met. Conversely, the ADA does not include work as a major life activity, and thus holds disabled employees to a higher standard in this area.
Lastly, the FEHA has less strict evaluation requirements. For purposes of applying anti-discrimination laws to individuals, an evaluation may be conducted to determine whether the worker is disabled. Under the ADA, the disabled employee is required to take the evaluation in a mitigated state – in other words, in a way that lessens the influence of the disability. For example, wearing glasses during an evaluation to determine disability based on loss of vision might be required under the ADA.
Under FEHA, however, a mitigated state during the evaluation is not required. Moreover, even the perception of a disability which leads to discriminatory acts is illegal under FEHA. Thus, it is easier to gain coverage by California state law under the FEHA than under the ADA.
Understanding “Qualified Individual with a Disability”
Under both the ADA and the FEHA, an individual cannot receive the protection outlined in the provisions of these laws unless he or she is a “qualified individual with a disability.” In other words, the employee must be able to perform the duties of a job position. This provision prevents employees whose disability precludes them from doing the job in question from filing suits of disabled discrimination at work when they are not allowed to do the job. For example, a blind worker could not be a land surveyor because he or she is not qualified for such a position, and his or her exclusion from such a position would not be considered disability discrimination in the workplace.
Also, the two laws only apply if the worker filing suit is actually disabled, meaning the disability he or she has interferes with the ability to work. Here, courts examine the influence a disability has on the person’s job and ability to earn income.
Understanding ‘Reasonable Accommodation’ in Disability Discrimination At Work Cases
Anti-discrimination laws often require an employer to provide accommodation for specific categories of workers. When this accommodation is not provided or is provided insufficiently, an employer could be in violation of the law.
In the context of disability discrimination in the workplace, the employer may need to make changes to the workplace or to workplace policy in order to meet reasonable accommodation requirements. For example, an employer may need to modify job duties, decreasing a disabled worker’s workload or providing more break time, in order for him to perform job duties effectively.
It is important to note that accommodations are not without some limitations. For instance, the law requires that in order to receive accommodations, a disabled employee must first request it. The requested accommodation must be reasonable and the employer has the right to refuse requests that would cause undue hardship to the business.
Southern California Disability Discrimination Lawyers
The employment lawyers at the California Employment Legal Group devote a substantial portion of their practice to protecting the rights of workers from unfair employment practices and unwarranted discrimination and harassment, including disability discrimination at work. The ability to work for a living is a basic human right, and it is in the interest of everyone to try to achieve a workplace characterized by respect for human dignity. We are passionate about protecting that right, and we are committed to workplace justice for all Californians. We will investigate your situation and assist you with all paperwork that you’ll need to file before initiating a lawsuit. If you’re still on the job, we will monitor your situation to make certain that no one is attempting to retaliate against you, which is illegal. The great majority of disabled discrimination claims are settled out of court. Nevertheless, you want to make sure that the disability discrimination attorney you select has the litigation experience and skill to take your case to a jury if an agreement is not reached before trial.
The California Employment Legal Group will never back down from trying a case. From the day your case comes into our office, we will prepare it for trial. Whenever possible we will attempt to get an award of both compensatory and punitive damages to increase the amount of your recovery and deter the employer from allowing further disability discrimination in the future. Protect your rights. Call the California Employment Legal Group today for a free case evaluation.