Within any workplace, everyone should have the same opportunities and chances to succeed. However, not every worker in the workplace has the same advantages and disadvantages. Thus, it is the duty of the employer to provide a comfortable and fair workplace to allow his or her workers to flourish. Yet, sometimes a fellow worker may have a disability that can greatly affect how they operate at work.
Having a disability can be unfortunate and can become a disadvantage, especially in the workplace. Besides an inability to physically handle the tasks another individual could easily handle, a worker with a disability may also have to deal with workplace discrimination. This generally means that an employee with a disability receives unfair treatment on the basis of their disability, and not on their performance. This is prohibited in California, and employees with disabilities have special protections under state policies. However, this sort of discrimination still occurs and can negatively affect that employee’s livelihood and well-being.
If you are facing a problem like this, Stop Unpaid Wages is here to assist you with any sort of disability discrimination incident you may face. With a team of highly experienced and qualified attorneys in the field of workplace discrimination, we are confident that we can provide top-class legal expertise to your case should you need it. As a firm that focuses on workplace discrimination, we believe all workers deserve to have their rights respected by any employee, no matter the situation.
What Is Disability Discrimination?
Disability discrimination is similar to other forms of workplace discrimination, such as race, gender, or age discrimination. As its title suggests, this means that an employer treats another employee, or applicant, unfavorably based on their disability. Also, this pertains to scenarios in which employers treat an employee, or applicant, less favorably based upon a history of disability or mental or physical impairment that is minor and will not last permanently. As defined under legal terms, a disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one’s major life activity. As a form of workplace discrimination, an employer cannot discriminate against an employee, or potential employee, based upon the disability. If that employee, or potential employee, is able to do the job, an employer cannot:
- Terminate them,
- Not hire them,
- Reduce their salary,
- Reduce their benefits, and/or
- Reduce their work hours purely based on their disability.
These discriminatory practices are unlawful in California. It is paramount to understand that this does not mean that all individuals with disabilities must be hired or kept on the job. Simply, an employer must treat an employee, or potential employee, with a disability equal to those employees without disabilities.
- Kelly goes in for a job interview. During the process, she notifies the employer that she suffers from schizophrenia; yet, she is still able to properly perform the tasks the job demands. Despite being qualified for the job and having the ability to do it, the employer does not hire her due to her mental disability.
Disability discrimination also includes situations where an employee may treat an employee with a disability unfairly by refusing to provide the proper accommodations to allow them to do their job. This is considered to be a form of disability discrimination since an employer would be denying that employee with a disability an equal chance to complete their duties as any other employee with no disabilities.
- Even though Jerry was hired on to work at a factory, he finds it difficult to get around in his wheelchair since there are not areas that are easily accessible to wheelchairs. He tells his employer about his problems, but she does nothing to help.
Disability discrimination may also apply to any individual who has a relationship with someone with a disability. Under state laws, it is prohibited to discriminate against an employee, or potential employee, if they are related to, or have a relationship with, someone with a disability.
Laws Related to Disability Discrimination
Similar to any other form of discrimination, there are a number of laws that protect individuals with disabilities on the state and federal level. Discrimination against employees with disabilities is commonly covered under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). For federal employees of any type, they are covered under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. In the state of California, employees with disabilities are also protected under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. These policies make it illegal to discriminate against an employee based on their disability, and they provide the necessary outlines to determine acts of discrimination.
Under the ADA, treating an employee, or potential employee, with a disability unfairly is prohibited. This means that an employer cannot discriminate against an employee with a disability who can properly perform the functions of his or her job—this may include any sort of accommodation that the individual may require to perform the duties. Once again, this indicates that an employer cannot terminate, not hire, not promote, reduce benefits, or reduce benefits to an employee with a disability on the grounds of their disability.
The act also describes the standards that necessitate the reasonable accommodations that the employer should provide for the disabled worker so that they can perform their job. The ADA is primarily enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency that deals with workplace complaints and administers regulations regarding the act.
Within California, discrimination laws fall under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) of 1959 which describes a set of laws that have become the state’s policies regarding workplace discrimination. The FEHA is identical to the ADA terms of its definitions about discrimination and the responsibilities of the employer. Under this act, employers, with more than five employees, cannot discriminate based upon a mental or physical disability, a medical condition, or a genetic condition.
California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing is the agency that handles workplace complaints and issues regarding discrimination. Like the EOCC, this agency also creates regulations that are meant to ensure a discrimination-free work environment for all employees within the state.
What Is Considered a Disability?
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Employment and Housing Act, a disability is defined as to include certain conditions. In California, an employee must have either a mental disability, a physical disability, or a medical condition to be considered.
Physical disabilities are some of the most common in the workplace. These are any bodily condition, disfigurement, or anatomical loss that may affect an individual’s bodily systems and affect their life activity. Generally, physical disability is one that affects any sort of body system (neurological, immunological, etc.) and that severely limits one from performing normal tasks and duties. This may include conditions such as blindness, deafness, missing limbs, use of a wheelchair, cerebral palsy, and more.
A medical condition is any sort of condition that is related to a disease or health impairment. In these cases, the symptoms for an employee’s condition may not be apparent; however, they are still protected under California law. These individuals are still considered to be disabled since their condition makes them susceptible to future health issues that could affect their ability to properly perform tasks.
Mental disabilities include any mental or psychological condition that may limit an individual’s ability to perform everyday tasks. This may include emotional illness, autism spectrum disorders, learning disabilities, schizophrenia, and more.
Most of what are considered to be disabilities in California are serious conditions that may debilitate an employee from performing their tasks. Minor conditions, such as colds, the flu, and other similar illnesses, are not considered to be disabilities.
In most cases, incidents of disability discrimination often fall on the responsibility of the employer. In California, employers are responsible in cases of disability discrimination if they either have 5 or more active employees, act as an agent of a covered employer or if they are state or local government entities. Being an agent means that you are acting at the behest of the employer. Under discrimination laws, these individuals are seen as equal to the employer in terms of position.
A major duty an employer has to undertake, especially in the context of employees with disabilities, is providing the proper and reasonable accommodations to those workers. Once an employer knows of an employee’s disability, it is their responsibility to provide any and all reasonable accommodations that would allow the employee to perform his or her job. It is also important to continually discuss with that employee on how their needs can be met so that they can do their job.
Under the language of discrimination laws in California, reasonable accommodations are ones that would enable an employee to perform his or her essential duty while on the job. Of course, the accommodations required will be dependent on the type and severity of the employee’s disability. Also, even though an employer must try to provide any accommodation to a disabled employee, if they are unable to do so due to financial hardship, or any other lawful excuse, then they are not liable to provide all accommodations.
The most common form of accommodation an employer may have to make for a disabled employee is making sure that the workplace facilities can be accessed by that employee. Other forms may include job restructuring, reassigning the employee to another position, altering how the job is performed, or limiting the amount of work that can be done.
- John hired a new employee who uses a wheelchair. However, since the facilities are not fit for a wheelchair to access, John must do what he can to allow the new employee to work.
Other forms of accommodation may include allowing an employee to use a service animal while on the premises, allowing the employee to leave for appointments, creating flexible schedules, and more.
If an employer is aware of an employee’s disability, they must accommodate that employee. If they ignore or refuse to acknowledge, the employee’s complaints or struggles, an employer is liable for disability discrimination. The employee with a disability may then file a complaint which could lead to a potential lawsuit with hefty penalties.
Related Workplace Issues
Disability discrimination is a serious offense. It may also lead to other types of lawsuits in California. Discrimination may just be one part of a larger incident that has occurred to any employee on the job site. Often times, disability discrimination cases can lead to other prohibited actions such as harassment, wrongful termination, and employer retaliation.
Disability discrimination may also include instances of harassment. In any workplace, it is illegal and prohibited to harass any employee, or potential employee, that has a disability. This can also include employees, or potential employees, who have previously had a disability, or is believed to have a minor physical or mental disability.
Under California law, harassment may include many types of actions that contribute to hostile, or harmful, work environments. This can include examples of bullying another employee. In order to be considered for a lawsuit, the harassment to be either severe or offensive. Also, if the harassment is not greatly severe, but continues over a long period of time, it may be reviewed for a case. Any kind of harassment that becomes a serious problem for an employee, or potential employee, may also be considered grounds for a suit.
- At a local fast-food restaurant, a couple of co-workers continuously make fun of another co-worker who has a mental disability.
It is important to be aware that harassment complaints may be filed for anyone in the workplace—not just an employer. This may include a co-worker, a supervisor, and others.
Harassment differs from disability discrimination in that the employee does not suffer from an employment-related problem. However, they can be related. Different types of complaints may be filed together depending on the circumstances of your case and your experiences.
Disability discrimination can lead to a wrongful termination suit if an employee with a disability was fired based upon their disability. Wrongful termination means that an employee was terminated, or fired, in a way that violates the law. Discrimination can play a big role in these occurrences. If an employer fires an employee based upon a disability, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, or any other type of similar factor, they may be sued for wrongful termination. This does not indicate that an employee was let go for no reason, or because the employee disagreed with what happened. There has to be a clear violation of the law behind the termination.
Also, constructive discharge is another form of wrongful termination that should be considered. Instead of being directly fired, constructive discharge means that an employee quit on his or her own due to a hostile environment at work, harassment, and/or not being properly accommodated. An employer is liable in this case if they ignore the complaints and needs of a disabled employee. This can be seen as a form of wrongful termination since an employee is pressured into quitting due to uncomfortable circumstances.
Often times, complaints about disability discrimination are not reported. Mainly, employees may fear that once they report about an unlawful practice in the workplace, their employer may retaliate against them. If an employee files a disability discrimination complaint, they may sometimes experience employer retaliation. In these situations, an employer may retaliate against an employee who has filed a complaint or lawsuit against them. Yet, all employees should know that it is prohibited for an employer to retaliate in such ways. If an employer reduces pay, reduces hours, terminates, demotes, or takes any other similar action against an employee, they may be liable for employer retaliation. This may be filed as an additional complaint besides any other type of complaint that an employee has against their employer. Under this law, employees are protected so that they can feel free to report any type of unlawful behavior that may occur at work.
How to File a Complaint
If you feel that you’ve been unlawfully discriminated against in your workplace, your first step should always be to inform your employer about the incident. As an employer, they have a responsibility to make sure your complaints are heard and issues are resolved. However, if your employer does not listen, refuses to acknowledge your complaint, or is, in fact, the perpetrator in the incident, then you may file a complaint. At this point, you may look for an experienced and qualified lawyer who can help you with your case and ensure you take the correct steps.
There are two different departments where you may file a complaint about disability discrimination: the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Fair Employment and Housing in California. Each has their own process in handling complaints. The DFEH may be the best choice since California’s laws regarding discrimination in the workplace are broader and provide more protection to its citizens. Also, in California, more damages may be received as a result of a successful lawsuit.
A disability discrimination complaint, as with any other discrimination complaint, must be filed with the DFEH in California within one (1) year of the date of the incident. Once it is filed, the DFEH will investigate your claim to determine if any further steps may be taken. During the investigation itself, an investigator will look into your claim and your employer will have to be informed about the complaint. Also, information about the claim will be provided to your employer. All of the information gathered will be reviewed by the investigator to determine whether your claim is valid and may proceed to the next phase. If accepted as a valid claim, they may start mediation with you and your employer. If this does not produce a resolution, then your case might be taken to court.
Remedies for Disability Discrimination
For an employee, discrimination may have a significant effect on their well-being as well as their finances. If your case is taken to court and if you succeed, you may receive compensation to make up for what you have lost due to the discrimination. For example, if you were fired, and you are struggling to find another job, then the court may order your employer to give front pay to cover the financial burdens. Other forms of possible compensation include:
- Back or front pay,
- Compensation for pain or suffering,
- Court fees and attorney fees,
- Out-of-pocket expenses, and
- Possible punitive damages for the employer.
In California, there are no limits on the amount of compensation that a victimized employee can receive. This is a limited list of possible forms of compensation; however, any compensation you may receive depends on the circumstances of each case.
Locating a Disability Discrimination Attorney Near Me
All forms of discrimination are prohibited in the workplace. No one should have to worry about facing discrimination of any form. However, this is far from the case. Discrimination commonly occurs in the workplace through various ways and for various types of people. Employees with disabilities have an unfair position of having to deal with discrimination based on issues that are out of their control. Having to deal with discrimination in the workplace can lead to unpleasant situations and suffering. So, it always crucial to report any incident the moment it occurs.
If you are an employee who has been discriminated against based on a disability, you may need the assistance of a well-experienced and highly qualified lawyer to ensure that you take all of the proper steps. Our team of lawyers at Stop Unpaid Wages can help you with any type of complaint or lawsuit when it comes to employment discrimination. When it comes to any type of discrimination case, having an excellent lawyer can help make sure that you follow all necessary steps in the process and that your legal rights as an employee are protected. Call 424-781-8411 to get in contact with our team today. We will work hard to ensure you won’t suffer any more for discrimination.