Disability Discrimination in the Workplace

California and Federal law protects people against discrimination and harassment for actual or perceived disabilities and provides disabled persons who are treated unlawfully to achieve access and/or compensation.

The Los Angeles disability discrimination lawyers at David Yeremian & Associates, Inc. are committed to enforcing equal rights for everyone in the United States. Our laws are enacted to allow everyone in the country to be treated with the same integrity and respect, despite their disability status. And our firm is committed to enforcing those rights at all times.

Each attorney in our firm is experienced in holding companies responsible for their short-sighted mistreatment of disabled employees, and each carries a vow to enforce the applicable laws supplied by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to the letter of the law.

If you rights as a disable individual have been violated in the workplace, contact one of our qualified and committed employment law attorneys today for help. We can help you recover financially, while you receive the redemption you deserve.

What Is A Disability Under the Law?

In California, a person is considered disabled if a condition inhibits at least one of their major life activities. Simply put, this means that some mental or physical condition makes performing daily activities more difficult, such as breathing, seeing, walking, bathing, working, socializing, reading, eating, digesting, hearing, speaking, etc..

Some disabilities are easily apparent to the others; i.e., being confined to a wheel-chair, requiring the use of a cane, speech impediments, or physical disfigurements and amputations. However, many other disabilities are not so apparent.

Non-apparent physical disabilities may include heart or lung problems that affect a , gastrointestinal difficulties, sleep apnea, etc. Additionally, there are many mental disabilities that affect daily life that are not readily apparent. These may include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and bipolar disorder, among many others.

In order to qualify as a disabling condition, the disability must be—or be perceived—as longstanding or permanent. It is important to note that pregnancy and pregnancy-related disabilities are exempted as disabling conditions because they are covered under separate law. These are considered temporary disabilities which are covered under the California Family Rights Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

What Laws Protect Disabled Persons From Disability Discrimination?

California employees are protected from disability discrimination by both Federal and California State laws.

Federal law protects disabled employees under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This law applies to employers who have 15 or more employees.

California law protects disabled employees under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). This California law applies to employers with 5 or more employees.

Additionally, many local cities and municipalities have ordinances that apply to protect employees working within those cities.

These laws are designed to prohibit all forms of discrimination of disabled employees in the workplace. Discrimination may be in the form of firing, refusing to hire, and/or demotions. Furthermore, these laws require that employers engage in good faith efforts to provide reasonable accommodations in the workplace for any disabled employees. Additionally, they must discuss with healthcare providers as to what are the appropriate steps that should be taken to make such reasonable accommodations.

What Are Disability Rights?

An otherwise qualified disabled person (who has the training, education, etc. required for the position) to perform the essential job functions—with or without accommodation—must be treated equally as all other applicants and employees under the law.

For example, a person bound to a wheelchair who has a bachelor’s degree in marketing would most likely be considered otherwise qualified to work for a marketing firm because their disability does not interfere with performing the essential job functions (i.e., drawing, writing, presenting, etc.). On the other hand, however, a firefighter who has lost the use of his or her legs is unlikely to be considered otherwise qualified to continue working as a firefighter because their disability prevents them from performing the essential job functions (i.e., running, lifting, and carrying).

Accommodation is a method in which assistance or modification of nonessential job functions make it easier for a disabled person to perform essential job functions. This may include modifications to workstations, work-from-home agreements, visual and/or hearing aid devices such as, TDD or large-screen computer monitors.

The American Disabilities Act was approved and placed in action for businesses of 15 employees or more in 1990. Since then, its guidelines are clear and punishable by law. It is illegal to hire, fire, layoff, or demote anyone simply because they have a disability. In fact, it is illegal to infringe on their rights to benefits, promotions, pay or training simply because they are disable.

The definition of disabled is interpreted multiple ways, according to the law:

  • A person is disabled if they have a mental or physical condition that substantially limits a “major life” activity, including talking, walking, hearing, seeing or learning).
  • A person may be disabled if they have a history of disability that is in remission, including cancer or psychological limitations that controlled with medication.
  • A person may be disabled if they have a mental or physical impairment that is short-term, lasting six months or less.

Furthermore, California has a broader set of disability discrimination laws, in contrast to Federal laws. California extends disabilities to anything that substantially limits life activities. This may include acute sciatica, carpal tunnel, depression, among many other examples.

What Are Essential Job Functions?

Essential job functions are the duties and tasks required by the position, which the employee must perform. This is why the employee was hired (or is being interviewed to be hired). A person with a disability who either seeking employment or is already employed, must be able to perform these essential job functions with or without the use of reasonable accommodations. If they are able to do so, any discrimination or other negative actions taken against the employee as a result of their disabilities may open the employer to a claim of discrimination and violations of employee rights.

Furthermore, it is not the sole decision of the employer as to whether an individual can continue to perform their essential job functions due to their disabilities. There are a series of good faith steps that must be taken, including consulting with the individual’s healthcare providers, to determine the employee’s ability to continue performing their essential job functions. Commonly, employers will tell disabled individuals that, in their experience and judgment, they do not believe that the individual is able to be hired—or continue their employment—because their disability prevents them from performing essential job functions. This is insufficient cause for negative action, or refusals to hire, against the disabled individual and may be a violation of disability discrimination laws.

The key point is, the employer does not have the first and last say in evaluating an individual with disabilities’ ability to perform their essential job functions. Even if that employer is a physician, they must adhere to the disability non-discrimination process to avoid violating the employee’s rights. An employee should never just “take their boss at their word” and assume that they have no recourse in defending their disability rights.

What Obligations Do Employers Owe Disabled Employees?

The law requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations for disabled employees. This is not as simple as it seems. Once an employer is made aware of an employee’s disability, the law obligates the employer to initiate good faith inquiries and discussions about the implementation of potential accommodations. Failure to engage in these discussions may subject the employer to damages.

During these discussions, the disabled employee must also engage in good faith. An employer may request medical reports or certifications of the disabling condition. The employer may also have discussions with the disabled employee’s medical providers for the purposes of determining what accommodations would satisfy the employee’s needs.

Reasonable accommodations may involve any of the following actions:

  • Modified work scheduling in order to allow for physical or mental therapy sessions and/or medical appointments;
  • Restructuring of job duties and activities, including modifying physical activity, increasing break times, etc.;
  • Purchase and utilize specialized equipment to aid working conditions and accommodate disabilities;
  • Modifications to the workplace, such as, building ramps, doors, workstations for wheel chair accessibility.

What is Disability Discrimination?

Disabilities, whether physical or mental, should not be held against a person in terms of their ongoing employment, nor should they cost the person their job. As long as the person with a disability or multiple disabilities is still able to perform the essential functions of their job, with or without reasonable accommodations—and provided that those accommodations do not cause severe or undue hardship to the employer—that person is protected under both Federal and State law and may claim those protections in enforcing their rights.

The harsh reality is that not all employers are willing to or are uneducated as to honoring their employees’ rights. As will be discussed further in the next section, disability discrimination may not be as obvious as simply firing an individual “because they have a disability.” Most commonly, employers are found to be legally responsible for:

  • Failing to make good-faith efforts to engage in inquiries and discussions regarding the disability and how to accommodate. Remember, that once employers are made known of a disability, or had a reason to know of the disability, they must engage in an interactive process to determine whether accommodation is reasonably feasible with the employee and/or with their healthcare providers. If an employee wishes to engage their employer regarding their disability, failure to enter into these discussions and inquiries is a violation of disability rights.
  • Failing to make reasonable accommodations. Unless an employer has sufficient, legal grounds to deny making accommodations (i.e., proving an undue hardship), denial of implementing accommodations may expose them to serious liabilities under disability discrimination laws. Remember, these laws are applicable under both Federal and State laws.
  • Retaliating against a disabled employee. It is illegal for an employer to take negative employment actions against an employee who reports alleged discrimination, makes requests for accommodations, files workers’ compensations claims, or initiates a disability discussion.

How is Disability Discrimination Proven?

As mentioned above, disability discrimination can be obvious or subtle. But even in the most obvious cases, the person claiming legal disability protections must meet an initial burden of proof in bringing forth their claim. There are many complexities involved when demonstrating disability discrimination and, often, many individuals do not seek enforcement of their rights.

Because the laws are complex, and there tends to be significant “grey areas,” employers all too often use these grey areas to justify their actions. Employers will often argue that they had no knowledge of a disability and that any negative actions taken against the employee were the result of poor work performance and unrelated to any perceived discrimination. This is another reason why it is so important to meet with an experienced disability discrimination attorney. An experienced attorney understands these tactics that employers will use and know how to combat them and mount a claim defending the employee’s rights.

If you believe that you have been discriminated against by your employer due to a disability, it is very important to consult with an experienced team of disability discrimination attorney. David Yeremian & Associates, Inc., has a dedicated team of experienced and knowledgeable disability discrimination attorneys who can review your case and provide you with the representation to ensure that your rights are defended and your claim is properly handled.

In California, in order to prove disability discrimination the plaintiff must show that all of the following basic elements exist:

  1. That the person(s) accused of engaging in discrimination (the defendant) was an employer or other qualified entity (such as a landlord);
  2. That the disabled person (the plaintiff) was either an employee, or had applied for employment, or applied for housing to the defendant;
  3. That the defendant knew, should have known, or thought that the plaintiff had a physical or mental condition, disease, or disorder that limited one or more major life activity. Or, in the alternative, that the defendant knew or thought the plaintiff had a history of having a physical or mental condition, disease, or disorder that limited one or more major life activity;
  4. The disabled person is capable—or otherwise qualified—of performing the essential job functions with, or without, reasonable accommodations;
  5. That the defendant fired, prohibited, or refused to hire the plaintiff;
  6. That the plaintiff’s history of physical and/or mental condition, disease, or disorder was a motivating reason for the adverse action taken against him or her by the defendant. Or in the alternative, that the defendant’s knowledge or belief of the plaintiff’s history of having a physical or mental condition, disease, or disorder was a motivating factor for the adverse action taken against him or her;
  7. That the plaintiff was harmed by the adverse action; AND
  8. That the defendant’s decision and conduct was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s harm.

The disability discrimination attorneys in Los Angeles at David Yeremian & Associates, Inc. describes the American Disabilities Act with precision, as the unlawful mistreatment or unfavorable treatment of an employee — either prospective, current or past — simply because of their disability. This extends to individuals who have a history of a disability as well, including an ongoing physical or mental illness that requires treatment. Employers must provide reasonable accommodations for disabled individuals, including, but not limited to, wheelchair access, elevator access or reading or hearing impaired translations.

If your rights have been violated, contact one of our veteran disability discrimination attorneys in Los Angeles for help today. We want to help you hold your employer responsible for their unlawful treatment, and help you redeem your self-esteem and confidence as a result.

How Do I Ensure My Disability Rights are Protected and Enforced?

Disability discrimination is not only objectionable, but it is against the law, leading the Los Angeles attorneys at David Yeremian & Associates, Inc. to intervene to protect the rights of those who are being discriminated against at all costs.

The Los Angeles disability discrimination lawyers at David Yeremian & Associates, Inc. concentrate on employment law in an effort to ensure each of our clients’ rights are protected in the workplace. With many settlements recovered for our clients in the last six years, our attorneys have an indisputable reputation for protecting our clients’ rights, while forcing those who violate them to pay the consequences. When it comes to disability discrimination, each lawyer in our firm provides a distinct and strategic approach to delivering justice for our clients, as we are armed with the knowledge of the American Disabilities Act and the skill to enforce it accordingly.

Each disability discrimination attorney in Los Angeles at David Yeremian & Associates, Inc. provides free consultations to anyone who has been discriminated against because of a disability, or to their families who are pursuing a case on their loved one’s behalf. Once we are involved, we will work diligently with our experience and skill to secure a favorable financial resolution on your behalf. What’s more is that we will create a dialog in the courts to correct the wrongful and unlawful treatment of disabled individuals in Los Angeles as a whole, which is incredibly important to our firm.

If you or a loved one has been discriminated against in the workplace because of a physical or mental impairment, it is important that the offender — your employer — is held responsible for their actions. Contact one of the accomplished and skilled Los Angeles disability discrimination attorneys at David Yeremian & Associates, Inc. today at 818-659-8331 for help.

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