Can an employer refuse to hire you if you have a disability? In the state of California, that depends on two things: Whether you can perform the job and whether the employer has a different reason for not hiring you. This guide explains if and when a California employer can refuse to hire someone who has a disability.
Can an Employer Refuse to Hire You if You Have a Disability?
In the state of California, employers are free to hire – or not hire – anyone they’d like. However, employers are not legally allowed to refuse to hire you if their sole reason for doing so is a disability that you have (except in some limited circumstances). That means an employer can choose not to hire you because you can’t work the right schedule for the job, you’re not qualified or even because you showed up late to the interview – but they cannot refuse to hire you if you have (or they think you have) a disability that wouldn’t get in your way of performing the job with reasonable accommodations.
Here’s an example:
Trish shows up on-time for an interview for a customer service position in a hotel. She’s in a wheelchair. She tells the interviewer that she doesn’t have reliable transportation to get to work and she’s not sure she can always work Saturday mornings, even though the job description says that some Saturdays are required. The employer can refuse to hire Trish because she isn’t sure she can get to work, and because she said she doesn’t think she can always work Saturday mornings (which are required for the job). In this case, the employer didn’t refuse to hire her because she’s in a wheelchair; it refused to hire her because she couldn’t make the necessary commitment to the job.
Related: FEHA FAQ
Here’s another example:
Trish shows up on-time for an interview for the same customer service position in another hotel. She’s in a wheelchair. She’s qualified for the job, has reliable transportation and can work Saturday mornings. The hotel has elevators, and all the doors are ADA-accessible, which means if Trish needs to use them to escort a guest somewhere or to get from Point A to Point B, she’ll easily be able to do so. If Trish is the best candidate for the job, the employer can’t refuse to hire her because she’s in a wheelchair. In fact, even if the hotel didn’t have elevators or ADA-accessible doors, it couldn’t refuse to hire Trish based on the fact that she’s in a wheelchair because the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibit disability discrimination in the workplace.
Related: What is disability discrimination?
What Are Reasonable Accommodations?
Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations are modifications that make a person able to do a job. The key is reasonable: if the accommodations would be too difficult or too expensive for the business to make, they don’t have to make them.
For example, installing a wheelchair ramp at an employee entrance is feasible for many companies – and that would be considered a reasonable accommodation. However, building an elevator in a leased building that doesn’t belong to the business would most likely not be considered a reasonable accommodation.
Related: Disability discrimination and non-physical disabilities
When Can an Employer Refuse to Hire Someone With a Disability?
An employer can refuse to hire someone with a disability if that person’s disability would prevent them from performing the job or cause a safety hazard to others. For example, a courier service can refuse to hire a visually impaired driver; a call-answering service does not have to hire someone who has trouble speaking. The key is that the employer must be sure that the person cannot perform the job safely or with reasonable accommodations.
Do You Think an Employer Refused to Hire You Because You Have a Disability?
If you believe an employer refused to hire you because you have a disability, and the disability you have would not have prevented you from performing the job, we may be able to help you. Call us at 818-230-8380 or fill out the form below to schedule your free consultation with an experienced, caring professional who can give you the guidance you need.