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Disability Discrimination

Millions of Americans live with a disability and suffer discrimination at work because of their disability. Employees with disabilities face widespread discrimination, segregation and exclusion in the workplace and are often made to feel like they cannot be equal participants in their jobs. This mistreatment is wrong. People with disabilities should have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. Both the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibit discrimination and harassment against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including employment.

Los Angeles disability discrimination attorney Afshin Mozaffari has a comprehensive understanding of California employment law and can provide guidance to you about how the law works. Here are some key concepts about disability rights.

What is a Disability?

Not everyone with a medical condition is protected from discrimination. In order to be protected, a person must be qualified for the job and have a disability as defined by the law.

An individual is generally considered to be disabled in one of three ways:

  • If he or she has a physical or mental condition that substantially limits a major life activity (such as walking, talking, seeing, hearing, or learning).
  • If he or she has a history of a disability (such as cancer that is in remission).
  • If he or she is regarded as having a disability.

Examples of a disability include:

  • Chronic or episodic conditions such as clinical depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder.
  • Deafness, blindness, partially or completely missing limbs, mobility impairments requiring the use of a wheelchair, cerebral palsy, and chronic or episodic conditions such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, epilepsy, seizure disorder, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and heart and circulatory disease.
  • Learning disabilities manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning or mathematical abilities.

This list is non-exhaustive. The definition of disability, particularly under the FEHA, is broad and encapsulates many possible physical or mental impairments. Additionally, it is important to note that it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee based on a perceived disability, even if the employee does not have a qualifying disability.

What is a Reasonable Accommodation?

Sometimes a disabled worker will need assistance in order to perform the essential functions of his or her job. The law requires an employer to provide an employee with a disability with what is called “reasonable accommodation” in order to avoid liability under the ADA or FEHA.

Examples of reasonable accommodation include:

  • Paid or unpaid leaves of absence
  • Transferring an employee to a more accessible worksite
  • Providing assistive aids and services such as qualified readers or interpreters to an employee
  • Job restructuring, which may include reallocation or redistribution of non-essential job functions in a job with multiple responsibilities
  • Providing a part-time or modified work schedule
  • Permitting an alteration of when and/or how an essential function is performed
  • Permitting an employee to work from home
  • Providing additional training
  • Reassignment to a vacant position

These are just some ways that an employer can accommodate an employee with a disability. There may be others that a healthcare provider would suggest based on the nature of an employee’s disability and work conditions.

However, accommodations for workers with disabilities are not unlimited. An employer has the right to refuse accommodations that would cause undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business. In other words, an employer can refuse a request for accommodation if it is going to be significantly difficult or expensive.

What is the Interactive Process?

The law requires an employer to engage in an ongoing, good faith interactive process with an employee to determine whether reasonable accommodation can be made to an employee with a known disability. The interactive process is an ongoing dialogue between the employee and employer so that they can find an effective reasonable accommodation.

The interactive process is triggered as soon as the employer becomes aware that the employee may have a mental or physical impairment that limits his/her ability to perform any aspect of his/her job. While an employee may disclose to the employer that he/she has an impairment that affects his/her ability to do the job, the employee is not required to specifically request accommodation or disclose that he/she has a disability requiring accommodation.

The interactive process may be triggered by any one or a combination of the following situations:

  • The employee requests a reasonable accommodation, specifically or by reference to his/her limitations.
  • The employee regularly misses work, telling the employer that he/she is ill.
  • The employee has a workers’ compensation injury.
  • A family member, friend, health professional, or other representative may request a reasonable accommodation on the employee’s behalf.
  • A manager or supervisor observes barriers to the employee’s performance on the job.
  • The employer receives work restrictions from a medical provider.

Los Angeles disability discrimination lawyer Afshin Mozaffari has substantial experience in prosecuting disability discrimination claims. If you believe you are being discriminated against because of your disability, contact Mozaffari Law at 323.696.0702 or for a confidential consultation.

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