It’s against the law for an employer to discriminate against someone because of a medical condition. Medical discrimination – a type of employment discrimination – happens far too often, though, so it’s incredibly important for you to know your rights.
What is Medical Discrimination?
Medical discrimination can occur when an employer refuses to hire someone with a certain medical condition. It can also occur when an employer finds out about an employee’s medical condition and takes negative action (like demotion or firing) against that employee.
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act, or FEHA, protects workers from medical discrimination. So does the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA.
Related: California Employee Rights
Exceptions to Medical Discrimination
What might look like medical discrimination on the surface isn’t always really discrimination. If a certain medical condition would interfere with the safe performance of a job, it is typically legal for an employer to refuse to hire someone based on that condition. For example, a trucking company could refuse to hire a person with narcolepsy to drive its trucks.
That’s an extreme case. However, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees or applicants, unless doing so would cause undue hardship for the employer. For these purposes, “undue hardship” means significant difficulty or expense.
Examples of Medical Discrimination
It’s illegal for an employer to medically discriminate against someone (whether the person has an actual medical condition or the employer thinks the person has one) by:
- Refusing to hire or employ a person
- Refusing to choose someone to participate in a training program
- Firing someone
- Providing a person with different compensation than others, creating certain conditions or allowing certain privileges
Employers can’t medically discriminate in any aspect of employment, including hiring. That means, based on an actual or perceived medical condition, it’s illegal for an employer to:
- Demote you
- Deny you a promotion
- Deny you benefits
- Deny you reinstatement
- Force you to quit
- Harass you
- Reduce your pay
- Refuse to hire you
- Refuse to provide you with a reasonable accommodation
What is a “Perceived Medical Condition”?
An employer can’t ask you for your medical records. However, sometimes employers think a person has a medical condition with no proof. For example, if someone tells your boss that you have a medical condition – whether or not you actually do – your boss can’t discriminate against you because of it.
Is it Medical Discrimination if an Employer Asks You to Take a Medical Exam?
When you’re applying for a job, your prospective employer can’t ask you to take a medical exam if it doesn’t ask other employees to take one, too. It can’t ask you to take one unless the exam is job-related (such as joining the police force) and is a necessity.
Your prospective employer can’t ask you questions about your general health, either. (“Would you consider yourself healthy?” could be an illegal question.) However, the employer can ask you if you can perform essential functions of a job. That means it might be okay for your prospective employer to say something like, “Can you lift a dozen 50-pound bags of flour every day?”
Employers can’t ask prospective employees to answer medical questions or require a medical exam before offering a job, though. Employers can only do those things if:
- They believe the candidate can’t do the job safely or successfully because of a medical condition
- The employer needs some kind of documentation to grant a request for a reasonable accommodation
Do You Need to Talk to a Glendale Employment Lawyer About Medical Discrimination?
If you believe you’ve been the victim of medical discrimination, your best bet is probably to talk to an employment lawyer. Your attorney will ask you several questions to determine whether it’s likely an employer medically discriminated against you.
Call us at 818-230-8380 for a free case review. You’ll talk to an experienced attorney who will ask you questions about your case, as well as answer your questions about medical discrimination in the workplace and discuss your legal options.