Written by: John Dalton
| Read Time: 4 minutes

Disability discrimination in the workplace should never prevent someone from finding meaningful employment. A person’s disability should have little to no bearing on their ability to find a job. We all have a right to pursue gainful employment in a non-discriminatory workplace. California and federal laws protect disabled workers from disability discrimination in the workplace. Unfortunately, not all employers honor the law.

If you have a disability, it is important to know your rights before submitting a job application, attending an interview, or showing up for work. It is also important to take the right steps to protect yourself against employers who violate the law. Your best protection is the help of a skilled and experienced employment attorney. At the Law Office of John Dalton, our combination of skill, leadership, experience, and compassion can help ensure that you get justice if an employer infringes upon your rights. 

Learn how we can help you by calling (858) 720-8422 or sending an online message today.

Your Rights Under State and Federal Law

When it comes to protection against disability discrimination, you are doubly covered. There is a federal disability act and a California disability act. The federal act is called the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the California act is called the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). 

What Is a Disability?

The ADA and FEHA defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one, or more, major life activities. 

Your Employer Cannot Deny Benefits

Under both California and federal law, your employers and potential employers cannot take adverse and unreasonable employment actions against you because of a disability. 

Examples of disability discrimination in the workplace include an employer engaging in the following actions based on an employee’s disability:

  • Failure to hire,
  • Failure to promote,
  • Ableist statements in job advertisements,
  • Denial of employment benefits,
  • Denial of job opportunities,
  • Separation of employees based on disability,
  • Job termination, and 
  • Unequal pay. 

Please note that your employer can also be liable for discrimination if they mistreat you for your history of disability, perceived disability, or association with someone who has a disability. 

Your Employer Cannot Harass You Because of Your Disability

California and federal law also prohibits an employer from harassing an employee because of their disability. Harassment takes on many forms that can be significantly damaging to the targets and the workplace as a whole. 

California and federal law defines unlawful disability harassment as unwelcome conduct based on disability that:

  • Is enduring and becomes a condition of employment, or 
  • Is severe or pervasive enough for a reasonable person to believe their workplace is a hostile environment. 

Unlawful harassment can be one extreme moment of unwelcome behavior, or it can be a consistent pattern of offenses over a period of time. 

Disability harassment examples include:

  • Constant, unnecessary comments about your disability;
  • Jokes about your disability;
  • Efforts to highlight your disability and make the performance of your job harder;
  • Ableist name-calling;
  • Consistent efforts to single you out, compared to coworkers who do not share the same disability.

If you know that the treatment you endure at work is not right, but you cannot fully articulate the issue, please call or email us immediately. We have seen many versions of illegal workplace behavior and can help you put your experience into words.

Employers and Potential Employers Must Reasonably Accommodate You

The FEHA and ADA requires that employers make reasonable accommodations to help qualified employees with disabilities perform their jobs. Employers must also reasonably accommodate qualified potential employees so they can participate in the job application and interview processes. In general, you need to request accommodations to receive them. 

What is a reasonable accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is any work modification that helps you do your job (or complete the application process) without causing an employer undue hardship. An accommodation causes undue hardship if it is too expensive or difficult for an employer to provide. 

Examples of accommodations employers might have to provide include: 

  • Providing interpreters or interpreted job materials;
  • Modifying work equipment (chairs, desks, machines, etc.) for your use;  
  • Changing work schedules or nonessential work duties;
  • Modifying the workspace for accessibility (e.g., ramps, lifts, and automatic doors); and
  • Policy changes.

Employers aren’t always the most creative when it comes to developing simple and cost-effective accommodations to help you work. You can prevent an employer’s excuse of undue hardship by giving them examples of what accommodations would help you. 

Filing a Disability Discrimination Complaint

If you have any belief that an employer is discriminating against you, please call or email us.  It is very important that you file a complaint with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing or with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This process can be a bit complicated and it is easy to make a mistake.  Please call or email us and we will try to help you through this process. Once this complaint process is completed, you will receive a Right to Sue letter, which allows you to file a lawsuit in court.  If your lawsuit is successful, you could receive compensatory damages, injunctive relief, and punitive damages.  

It is important to take action if you feel you have been victimized by discrimination, You have 180 days to file an EEOC complaint, but that amount of time increases to 300 days if your complaint is also covered by state law. And you have three years to file a complaint with the DFEH.  When you have significant work stress, these deadlines can pass quickly, so please call or email us immediately after suffering injustice at work.  

How to Prove Disability Discrimination

There is almost no limit to the kind of evidence you can use to prove your disability discrimination case. You can use direct evidence by providing documents, legally acquired recordings, or witness testimony about discriminatory statements or nonverbal conduct from your employer. If you don’t have direct evidence of discrimination, circumstantial evidence is valid as well. With circumstantial evidence, you can show that your employer treated you differently from other employees with similar qualifications who didn’t share your disability. 

Direct and circumstantial evidence can include:

  • Emails,
  • Text messages,
  • Job advertisements,
  • Job application forms,
  • Employee handbooks,
  • Witness testimony,
  • Personnel records, 
  • Disciplinary records, 
  • Commendations, and 
  • Other correspondence. 

If your employer denied you a reasonable accommodation, it can be helpful to gather information about simple and inexpensive modifications that would have accommodated your needs.

Contact Us If You Believe You Have Suffered Discriminatory Conduct

The Law Office of John Dalton has provided zealous legal counsel to discrimination victims for 25 years. We keep open lines of communication with our clients, we have the experience and we fight for our clients. However isolated the discrimination might make you feel, remember you are not alone, and you are not without recourse. Give us a call at (858) 720-8422 or contact us online for a case review. 

    “I highly respect John and his dedication and integrity. You will not be disappointed.” John Dalton went to work for me and delivered great results. I wasn’t sure what to do and when I found John, he explained everything nicely and he was able to get me the settlement I truly deserved. He was easy to work with and I always felt like I was kept in the loop - it was really fantastic service all around. - Steve K.
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