Disability and Medical Condition Discrimination

The law prohibits employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities. This prohibition covers almost any type of adverse employment action, including in hiring, firing, the job application process, the interviewing process, advancement and promotions, compensation, wages and benefits, job training, and other terms, conditions and privileges of employment. The law also prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee who is perceived as having a physical or mental disability even though the employee is not actually disabled.

In California, employees enjoy a broad statutory definition of “disability” under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). In general, a disability is any physical or mental condition that limits a major life activity. Under the FEHA, a covered disability is any physical or mental impairment that limits (or makes more difficult) one or more major life activities such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, working, hearing or speaking.

The FEHA and its federal counterpart, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), make it illegal for employers to discriminate against disabled employees. Under both the FEHA in California and the ADA under federal law, employers are legally required to engage in an interactive process with disabled employees to determine whether a reasonable accommodation is available to enable the employees to perform their job, or another open job for which they are qualified. In addition, employers under both the FEHA and the ADA may be required to provide disabled employees with a medical leave of absence above and beyond the leave provided by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and California Family Rights Act (CFRA).

An Employer’s Duty to Provide Reasonable Accommodations to Disabled Employees

An employee with a disability may be qualified to perform a job, but may need some assistance – a “reasonable accommodation” – because of their disability. If the employer is on notice that an employee with a disability may need some assistance to do their job because of a disability, then the employer is required to engage in the “interactive process.” Under the interactive process, the employer and employee are required to share information about the job duties, the employee’s limitations and how those limitations may be accommodated, such as special equipment or through job modification that allows the employee to do the job, unless the employer can demonstrate that doing so would create an undue hardship.

Examples of a reasonable accommodation could include:

  • Job restructuring, such as where an employee has a limitation on the weight they can lift, having another employee occasionally lift heavy items.
  • Modified work schedules, such as altering the employee’s working hours to allow them to attend medical appointments or treatment sessions.
  • Special equipment or modifying existing equipment to make it accessible.
  • Changes in the workplace, such as ramps, accessible doors, restrooms, and modified work stations.
  • A leave of absence.
In order to determine whether an accommodation is possible, employers must engage in a timely, good faith interactive process with disabled employees. The interactive process requires both employers and employees to exchange information regarding the employee’s ability to work and potential accommodations the employer may be able to provide. Therefore, it is important for employees to obtain advice early in the process to ensure that they meet their own obligations under the law.

If you have a disability and your employer has not accommodated you in the manner you think they should or you feel you have been mistreated because of a disability, call us at 888-872-8065 for a free consultation. We use our defense background to passionately represent employees.

Pregnancy Discrimination

When a pregnant employee or job applicant is treated in a less favorable manner or treated differently because of the pregnancy, this can constitute pregnancy discrimination. Under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, an employer with five or more employees is prohibited from discriminating against employees due to pregnancy.

In the workplace setting, discrimination due to pregnancy can happen in a variety of ways. Examples of pregnancy discrimination prohibited by the FEHA include:

  • An employer deciding not to hire an applicant because she is pregnant or may someday become pregnant.
  • An employer taking an adverse employment actions, such as demotion or termination, against an employee because the employee is pregnant or is experiencing medical complications due to the pregnancy.
  • An employer failing to engage in discussions with a pregnant employee about reasonable job accommodations that the employee may need due to the pregnancy-related disabilities where the employer is on notice that an accommodation may be required.
  • An employer failing to provide a pregnant employee reasonable job accommodations that the employee may need to perform the essential job functions of the job due to the pregnancy-related disabilities.
  • An employer violating its legal obligations to provide a pregnant employee a leave of absence from work as a result of medical conditions related to childbirth or related issues.
  • An employer failing to reasonably accommodate an employee’s need to breastfeed or pump or discriminating against an employee for pursuing these rights.

If you are pregnant and have had any of the following occur to you, you may have a claim for pregnancy discrimination.

  • An employer with five or more employees did not hire you because of your pregnancy.
  • Your employer verbally abused or otherwise mistreated you because of your pregnancy.
  • Your employer denied you a full maternity leave.
  • Your employer has denied you time off for pregnancy-related medical issues.
  • Your employer has withheld benefits of employment to you because of your pregnancy, such as promotion, training opportunities or favorable work assignments.
  • Your employer has failed to reasonably accommodate any pregnancy-related disability.
  • Your employer denied you your right to return to work after a protected leave of absence.
  • Your employer terminated you because of your pregnancy or your intention to become pregnant.

If you recently announced your pregnancy at work and fear that your employer suddenly started treated you less favorably or otherwise think you may have suffered pregnancy discrimination, you may be experiencing pregnancy discrimination. Feel free to call us at 888-872-8065 for a free consultation.

If you feel you are being treated differently based on a protected category, such as race, gender, age, disability, veteran status, give us a call at 888-872-8065. We are dedicated to fighting discrimination in the workplace and are happy to talk to you about whether you may have a discrimination claim with no obligation. All calls are confidential.