Disability Related Employment Discrimination

Disability Related Employment Discrimination


Disability Related Employment Discrimination

Blazing a path for other states to follow, California passed the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) in the early 1970s and it has been a cornerstone of employee rights against discrimination. The state has outpaced federal law in terms of worker protections and prevents employers from denying those who become disabled a fair shake at being gainfully employed. Unfortunately, the state’s Department of Fair Employment fielded more than 17,000 FEHA-related complaints in 2014 and more than 60 percent had to do with people dealing with disabilities. California’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also fielded thousands of discrimination claims rooted in disability. Despite the tremendous efforts of the state’s lawmakers to protect people, employers and employees are not on the same page about how to effectively manage disabilities in the workplace.

Employer Duties

In California, maintaining fair worker rights and an appropriate level of dignity are at the very heart of its public policy. To that end, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for people who become disabled as long as they do not cause the company an “undue hardship.” While there has been some disagreement where the line is drawn between employee rights and employer accommodations, here are some things to consider if you believe you may have a disability related employment discrimination case.

Was your employer aware: Although it’s a good proactive step, employees are not responsible for keeping the boss in the loop about a disability, new or recurring. However, if your disability isn’t known or plainly visible, it’s important to let your employer know. It can only help with creating a productive work environment.

Changes: Once a disability has been established, a supervisor should touch base with you about your abilities and limitations. From there, the company has a duty to make reasonable alterations to things such as:

  • Making work space viable
  • Restructuring job descriptions
  • Restructuring work schedule
  • Providing assistance for a disability

Family member accommodations: Although the courts have not entirely settled the issue, they have been receptive to employee claims that schedules can be altered so that workers can be away from work to help care for family members. For example, working 10-6pm rather than 9-5pm in order to provide morning treatment for a spouse or elderly parent appears reasonable given that the work is getting done and the company doesn’t suffer a hardship.

Undue Hardship: California sets the mark fairly high for employers. The expectation is that they’ll make a concerted effort to accommodate a disabled worker. But if a company doesn’t have the financial resources or there would be a major impediment to productivity, the employer could deny making changes. Keep in mind, though, that the courts tend to take a broad look at a company’s ability to make changes. Workplace alterations can be relatively inexpensive. Also, the government offers a variety of incentives to help companies so they can provide people with disabilities a secure place of employment.

Leave Of Absences

California has been tremendously progressive in its protections of people who need time off from work because of disabilities. Under the Family Medical Leave and the California Family Rights acts employees are no longer faced with losing their jobs because of disabilities that impede their ability to work from time to time. If your disability makes performing your duties unnecessarily difficult, you’re generally on solid ground when requesting a temporary leave. The leave may also be open-ended if there’s a reasonably good chance you’ll be able to return. And, your employer must give you back your job when you are able to return.

Disability Related Employment Discrimination: Retaliation

Despite the strong protections of workers’ rights in California, some employers do not view economic prosperity as a joint venture between labor and management. It is not uncommon for bosses to retaliate. According to the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission, about half of discrimination claims are associated with employer retaliation. Retaliation is a common tactic used by some employers to make you feel uncomfortable or a way to outright fire you. Common instances include:

  • Refusal to make accommodations
  • Negative performance grades
  • Withholding scheduled pay increases
  • Withholding ordinary perks or benefits
  • Negative remarks placed in employee file

California takes very seriously this type of harassment and worker can file complaints with the state’s Retaliation Complaint Investigation Unit. Employers can face stiff penalties including up to $10,000 in fines for each violation.

The laws protecting the rights of disabled people are one of the many ways that we have progressed beyond the brutal working conditions of sweat shops and a time when labor unions were considered Communism. The contemporary work environment is one that should welcome people with different skills and abilities. However, if you are being discriminated against simply because you have a disability, it’s important that you have an experienced attorney on your side.

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Northern California Personal Injury Attorneys

My name is Ed Smith. I am a Modesto personal injury lawyer. If you or someone you are close to have suffered a serious personal injury, give me a call for free and friendly advice. I can be reached at (209) 227-1931 or toll-free at (800) 404-5400. You can also reach out to me by email. I’ve been helping California residents and their family members recover compensation for their wrongful death and personal injury claims since 1982.

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