Los Angeles Disability Discrimination Lawyer
Disability should never be a barrier to employment success, but in many workplaces, it remains an obstacle that employees with disabilities must overcome due to discrimination and lack of reasonable accommodations. Every individual has the fundamental right to work without being subjected to disability discrimination in the workplace. Get legal help from a Los Angeles employment disability lawyer of Theory Law APC, we tirelessly work for dignity and equality for all employees with disabilities. If you believe you have experienced disability discrimination, Theory Law APC offers you a free confidential consultation to review your case.
Understanding Your Protections and Rights Under ADA and California Law
California employees with disabilities have a wide range of rights and protections under state and federal laws. The ADA civil rights law, also known as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), is a groundbreaking law designed to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination in the workplace. The ADA prohibits discrimination against employees with disabilities, but the employers must have at least 15 employees.
- You must have a disability.
- You must be able to perform the essential functions of the job.
- Your employer took an adverse action against you because of your The adverse action could include termination, demotion, denied a promotion, subjected to a hostile workplace, or a course or pattern of conduct that negatively affected the terms, conditions, or privileges of your employment.
Defining Disability Under California Law: Qualifications and Protections
Under California law, the definition of disability is broad and encompasses a wide range of conditions. California laws extend beyond federal law to provide extra rights for people with disabilities, such as requirements for reasonable accommodations and workplace accessibility. Our state expands the protections and defines a disability as any physical or mental impairment that limits a major life activity. This includes any physical or mental disability, but is not limited to:
- Bodily impairment, such as needing glasses, hearing or speech aid, or loss of a limb
- Learning disabilities, such as ADHD or dyslexia in the workplace
- Chronic diseases such as HIV, rheumatoid arthritis, or diabetes
- Depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, or PTSD
- Pregnancy and related medical conditions
- Other medical condition that limits day-to-day activities.
It is important to note that Physical disability does not include sexual behavior disorders, compulsive gambling, kleptomania, pyromania, or psychoactive substance use disorders resulting from the current unlawful use of controlled substances or other drugs.
Employee Accommodation Rights for Disabilities in the Workplace
In California, a reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to the workplace that allows the employee to perform the essential functions of the job held or desired. If the employer is subject to the law, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) requires an employer of five or more employees to offer reasonable accommodation for employees with physical or mental disabilities. Similarly, an employee making an ADA accommodation request requires the employer with at least 15 employees to offer accommodations. Failing to provide a reasonable accommodation is unlawful, and a form of disability discrimination that can be brought as a separate claim in California.
To prove a claim for failure to provide a reasonable accommodation claim, you must show that:
- You have a disability.
- You could perform the essential functions of the job.
- Your employer failed to reasonably accommodate your disability.
Examples of a reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities that may be required in California include:
- Altering work schedules or shift assignments to accommodate medical appointments or treatments
- Modifying workspaces or providing ergonomic equipment to accommodate mobility impairments or chronic health conditions, such as stools to sit on or ergonomic chairs
- Offering paid or unpaid leave of absence
- Changing job duties, providing alternative work locations, or job reassignment as reasonable accommodation
- Offering assistive equipment, such as text to speech assistive technology or a screen reader
Employers must provide a reasonable accommodation for the employee’s disability unless the employer can demonstrate that doing so would cause an undue hardship. However, what is reasonable will depend on the individual circumstances of each case, including the nature of the disability and the essential functions of the job. Though an employee with a disability does not always need to request an accommodation, when the employee’s disability presents a need for an accommodation, or the person requests it, the employer is required to engage in a timely and good faith interactive process to reach a conclusion.
If you believe you require a reasonable accommodation but your employer failed to give you an accommodation, get help by speaking with a Los Angeles Disability Discrimination lawyer at Theory Law APC to understand your legal rights and options.
Navigating the Interactive Process
The reasonable accommodation interactive process is a communication that takes place between an employee with a disability and their employer to determine what reasonable accommodation may be necessary for the employee to fulfill the essential functions of their work. Under California’s FEHA, a good faith effort must be made by the employer to gather potential suitable work accommodations and communicate them to the employee. The employee may also discuss the challenges they face because of their disability and how it affects their ability to perform their job.
Additionally, the interactive process between the employer and the employee with a disability may be ongoing, meaning that the employer must continue to engage in the process and explore alternatives to accommodate the disability if the initial work accommodations are not effective or if the employee needs a change. As for federal law, the ADA interactive process requirements are similar to FEHA’s requirements.
When Employers Fail to Engage in the Interactive Process: What You Need to Know
The FEHA requires an employer of five or more employees to engage in an informal process with the employee to attempt to identify reasonable accommodations. Like a failure to accommodate claim, a claim for failure to engage in the interactive process can be brought against the employer as an independent claim.
If your employer does not engage in the interactive process, you can contact a Los Angeles Discrimination Lawyer at Theory Law APC. We offer a free confidential consultation and work for you on a contingency basis. This means that our fees are contingent on the successful outcome of your case. As an alternative, you can file a complaint with the California Civil Rights Department or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
It is important to maintain detailed records of any instances your employer failed to engage in the interactive process. This can include documents relating to your communication with your employer or documents showing that you notified your employer of your disability and requested accommodations.
Can Employers Legally Ask About Your Disability?
In most circumstances, an employer cannot ask a job applicant or employee about their disability, not even during a job interview. However, if the employee or job applicant with a disability has requested a reasonable accommodation to perform the essential functions of their job, an employer may ask about their disability in order to determine what type of accommodation may be necessary. If the employee voluntarily discloses their disability, the employer may ask follow-up questions to determine what accommodations may be necessary.
Taking Time Off Work for a Disability: Your Rights and Protections
An employee with a disability who needs to take time off work for their condition is entitled to do so without having to worry about their employment status. Additionally, the employee may be qualified for job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), or other California and federal laws.
Under the FMLA and CFRA, eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period for a serious health condition. A serious health condition includes a physical or mental impairment that requires inpatient care, or continuing treatment by a healthcare provider. These laws also allow time off work for pregnancy, baby bonding, medical care of a family member, or a pregnancy related medical condition.
Real-life Examples of Disability Discrimination in the Workplace
Disability discrimination can take many forms. Some common forms of disability discrimination in the workplace can include:
- Failing to provide a reasonable accommodation that would allow an employee to perform their job duties because of their disability.
- Harassing an employee because of their disability.
- Terminating or suspending an employee because of their disability.
- Refusing to hire a qualified job applicant based on a disability.
- Denying training opportunities to an employee because of their disability.
- Failing to grant someone leave under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) or the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
- Retaliating against an employee for asserting their rights under disability laws or requesting a reasonable accommodation.
Disability Retaliation in the Workplace
Disability retaliation occurs when an employer takes an adverse action against an employee because they have asserted their rights under disability laws or requested a reasonable accommodation. The adverse action can be in the form of termination, demotion, suspension, passing on a promotion or raise, or a course or pattern of conduct that negatively affected the terms, conditions, or privileges of the employee’s job.
Examples of retaliation as a result of an employee’s disability include:
- An employer terminates an employee after they request a reasonable accommodation or assert their rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).
- An employee is demoted or removed from a job assignment after they return from a medical leave or after they asserted their rights under disability laws.
- An employee is placed under performance improvement plans or performance evaluations after they assert their rights or request accommodations.
- An employer reduces an employee’s wages or takes away benefits after they request an accommodation or assert their rights.
What Constitutes Disability Harassment in the Workplace
This can happen when an employee is subjected to unwelcome conduct based on their disability, which creates a hostile or abusive work environment. Disability harassment can take many forms, including:
- Interfering with an employee’s work or work equipment because of their disability
- Offensive jokes or comments about an employee’s disability
- Mocking or imitating an employee’s disability
- Insults, slurs, or name-calling related to an employee’s disability
- Displaying offensive images or symbols related to an employee’s disability
- Physical threats or intimidation based on an employee’s disability
- Isolating or segregating an employee because of their disability
However, not all conduct that is offensive or hurtful is considered disability harassment. For conduct to be considered harassment, it must be severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile or abusive work environment. Additionally, the conduct must be based on an employee’s disability or perception of disability. Employers are required to take reasonable precautions to prevent disability-related harassment, retaliation or discrimination in the workplace.
How to Address Disability Discrimination in the Workplace
In today’s society, diversity and inclusion are paramount, yet many workplaces still fail to provide equal opportunities for persons with disabilities. Disability discrimination in the workplace is still a pervasive issue that continues despite our progress toward equal opportunity for every person. If you suspect your employer is treating you differently because of your disability, or not accommodating your request for accommodation, you have several options that may help. You can report the discrimination to management or HR, you can file a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), now known as the Civil Rights Department, or alternatively, you can consult with a disability discrimination lawyer. Whichever step you take, it is important to keep records of any instances of discriminatory behavior through communications such as text messages, emails, or letters.
Whether you need help regarding your accommodations or you need to speak with an attorney regarding an issue at work related to your disability or time off from work, we have experience with disability discrimination lawsuits in Los Angeles and can help you. As soon as you think your employer has discriminated against you because of your disability or medical condition, book a free consultation or call (310) 500-0206 to speak with a Los Angeles employment attorney at Theory Law APC today.
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