Signs of Disability Discrimination in the Workplace

December 22, 2020

Under federal laws, employers are legally prohibited from discriminating against employees based on a disability. California laws offer greater protections to the disabled workforce under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), the Unruh Civil Rights Act, and the Disabled Persons Act.

Even with laws protecting workers against discrimination based on disability, such actions still occur in the workplace. Below are some factors you can use to evaluate whether you have been the victim of discrimination based on disability.

Legal Standards Discrimination Based on Disability

Anti-discrimination laws require employers in California to make reasonable accommodations so that people with disabilities can perform their jobs. What qualifies as a “disability” is broadly defined. A disability can include conditions that limit a major life activity, like physical and mental disabilities. Deafness, blindness and missing limbs all qualify as a physical disability. It can also include medical conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, or epilepsy.  Anti-discrimination laws also require reasonable accommodation if a person is pregnant, and for pregnancy-related disabilities.

Signs of Work-Place Discrimination Based on a Disability

  1. Disability Discrimination

Disability discrimination occurs when an employer treats another employee in a similar situation better than you. Disability discrimination can occur at any stage of employment, including the hiring stage.  If another less qualified candidate is offered a position over you just because you have a disability, this can be a sign of disability discrimination. Other examples include termination, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training sessions, and different employment terms or conditions.

  1. Harassment

In California, it is illegal to harass a job applicant or employee because of a disability. Harassment occurs when an employee or contractor offends or humiliates a disabled worker. Harassment can take many forms, including verbal remarks and jokes about a person’s disability. It can also include actions, such as repeated pranks around the disabled person’s workstation. The level of harassment has to rise to the level of creating a hostile work environment.

  1. Reasonable Accommodations

Disability laws require an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to a job applicant or employee with a disability unless doing so would pose an undue hardship on the employer. A reasonable accommodation is any adjustment in the work environment to assist a person with a disability to apply for a job, perform job duties, or enjoy job benefits and privileges. An employer cannot refuse to provide an accommodation that will cost money. They can only do so if the accommodation would be difficult or expensive due to the company’s size, financial resources, and business needs.

Under the anti-discriminatory laws, reasonable accommodations include changes to the employment application, hiring process, or how a job is done. While an employer must make a reasonable accommodation, the accommodation cannot cause “undue hardship” to the employer.

For example, if a person cannot drive due to their disability, and the job is a delivery driver, the employer could argue that such an accommodation would cause “undue hardship.” That’s because the employee must still perform the essential job functions, in this case, driving, which is fundamental to the position, delivery driver. Because the essential job functions will differ depending on the job, reasonable accommodations come in many forms. Some examples of reasonable accommodations can include:

  • Making changes to your workplace to reduce contact with others
  • Allowing for a flexible work schedule, such as modified hours to staggering commute times
  • Temporarily changing job tasks
  • Working from home

Contact an Employment Attorney

If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination based on a disability, our compassionate San Francisco employment attorneys at Law Offices of Jeremy Pasternak can speak with you about your legal rights. You can schedule a consultation with us at 415-693-0300 or online.

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