You deserve to be treated fairly under the law
Disability law is based on the principle that people with disabilities should be able to have normal, productive careers like any other worker and should not lose their jobs for lack of reasonable accommodations that will enable them to keep working.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) 53 million Americans live with a disability. Laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) help disabled people make important contributions by prohibiting employment discrimination. An employer in California with five or more employees cannot fire an employee because of a disability without first engaging in an "interactive process" -- a discussion to try to find reasonable accommodations that will help the employee keep working.
Disabled people in the workforce:
In 2016, 17.9 percent of persons with a disability were employed, compared to 65.3 percent of persons without a disability.
Our San Francisco employment attorneys have years of experience handling disability discrimination and wrongful termination cases. We are prepared to help you get compensation and put an end to your employer’s discriminatory practices.
How do I know if I’m protected under the ADA and California Law?
Not all disabilities are obvious or can be seen
The Americans with Disabilities Act and California laws protect employees from employment discrimination because they have a disability, a history of disability, or the employer believes they have a disability. Employers must discuss reasonable accommodation with disabled employees upon request, or when the need for accommodation becomes obvious.
Disabilities affect major life activities
A disability interferes with a major life activity
California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) defines disability as a physical or mental impairment that limits how a person performs a major life activity.
Major life activities include working, seeing, hearing, sleeping, breathing, walking, thinking, learning, or the operation of major bodily functions. The condition does not have to be life-long, or permanent. However, short-term illness, or common stress and depression may not rise to this level.
What does "reasonable accommodation" mean at work?
A reasonable accommodation can be any form of assistance that helps the employee keep working, and isn't excessively costly or disruptive
Employers must discuss reasonable accommodation with disabled employees upon request, or when the need for accommodation becomes obvious. While it is a good idea to get a doctor's note stating the accommodations needed, it is not required. All you need to do is communicate to your employer that due to a medical condition, you need a particular accommodation.
What are some examples of reasonable accommodation at work?
Reasonable accommodation can include any kind of change to a specific job or work environment that will allow the employee to complete the essential functions of the job, or find a better-suited job. The point of reasonable accommodation is to create an equal working environment for people with disabilities. Some examples are:
- Job restructuring
- Part-time or modified work schedules
- Acquisition or modification of work equipment or devices
- Making existing facilities readily accessible to individuals with disabilities
- An extended medical leave of absence
- Temporarily converting a position to light-duty
- Reassignment to another open position
- Any other form of assistance that helps the employee keep working, and isn't excessively costly or disruptive.
All options must be pursued
Even if there is no way you can do your job with an accommodation, the employer must try to find other open jobs you could do. Your employer must help you identify potential jobs and give you preference for the potential new job.
Can an employer refuse accommodation?
An employer may turn down a request for accommodation if it causes undue hardship. Undue hardship means the employer can show that the request for accommodation would be too costly or burdensome. There is no exact rule for what this means, and the size and resources of the employer is a major factor. As an example, a small, local business might not be able to let one of its employees take an extended leave of absence, while a multinational corporation could do so.
Undue hardship is conditional.
For example, a small business might not be able to let an employee take an extended leave of absence, while a multinational corporation could.
How many people are affected by disabilities in the United States?
Disability discrimination and workers' compensation claims
Employees injured on the job may have to file a workers compensation claim and see a physician designated by their employer or the employer’s insurance company. If the condition does not improve the workers compensation doctor may declare that the employee's condition is "permanent and stationary." However the employer still must try to find an accommodation that will let the employee return to work in his or her original job, or another open position.
Disability discrimination during the hiring and interview process
An employer may not discriminate in hiring on the basis of disability. Unfortunately it does happen, so you should know your legal rights.
You are not required to disclose your disability during the hiring process, and employers may not ask medical questions unless they are job-related. However if you choose to disclose, or your disability is obvious, the employer may ask if you need accommodation to perform the job. If you do not disclose your need for accommodation during the hiring process you will need to do so after you are hired.
Wrongful termination due to disability
Our client was injured at work but was still able to perform his duties with a reasonable accommodation. His employer insisted he must do his job without any accommodation, and after refusing to have a dialogue, the employer terminated his employment.
We were able to get our client substantial compensation after filing suit for disability discrimination, failure to accommodate, and wrongful termination.
A water meter-reader slipped and fell on a customer's staircase, causing severe back and hand injuries.
Despite the injury, the employee could return to his job, if only he were allowed to take a 5 minute break each hour, and provided him a strap letting him read his water meter with his good hand.
His employer would not let him return to work, telling him that he had to be able to do 100% of his written job duties without any accommodation.
The employee wrote multiple letters and providing doctor's notes explaining the simple accommodations he needed in order to return to work. Nonetheless, his employer never attempted to find a way he could return to work, and terminated his employment.
We were able to obtain compensation for lost wages and damages for severe emotional distress caused by the harassing and retaliatory treatment.
Call for a free case evaluation
If you have been wrongfully terminated or suffered workplace discrimination due to a disability, the law gives you the power to recover damages and put a stop to illegal employment practices for the benefit of others. Contact the experienced employment attorneys at McCormack and Erlich today to get started.