We Are Disability Discrimination Lawyers Serving California Employees
Illness and injury can cause upheaval in every aspect of a disabled person’s life. But when disabled individuals lose their job or are in other ways discriminated against in employment because of a disability, this can lead to a complete loss of self. Los Angeles employment lawyers at the Genie Harrison Law Firm are here to protect you and to ensure that you remain the valuable contributor to society you have always been, regardless of disability or illness.
What constitutes disability discrimination?
In California, there are generally three different types of employment disability discrimination cases: (1) when an employer takes action against you because of an illness or disability; (2) when an employer fails to reasonably accommodate your illness or disability; or (3) when an employer fails to engage in a good faith interactive process with you to determine whether or not you can be reasonably accommodated.
Am I disabled under the law?
California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) protects employees suffering from certain physical and mental disabilities, and medical conditions.
An employee is considered to have a protected physical disability when they have any physiological disease, disorder, condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss that (1) affects one or more of several body systems (for example, neurological or immunological systems) and (2) limits a major life activity (for example, working).
An employee is considered to have a protected mental disability when they have a mental or psychological disorder or condition that limits a major life activity or requires special education or related services.
An employee is considered to have a protected medical condition when they have a major health impairment (for example, cancer or HIV/AIDS) or condition resulting from a genetic characteristic.
Additionally, an employee is considered to be suffering from a disability or medical condition when they have a history of such an impairment that is known to the employer, is incorrectly regarded or treated as having or having had such an impairment, or is regarded or treated as having or having had such an impairment that has no present disability effects but may become a qualifying impairment in the future.
Am I an otherwise qualified individual?
Employees must also be able to perform the “essential job functions,” with or without reasonable accommodation, to be protected under California disability law. This means that the employee is able to perform the main functions of the position they are seeking to obtain or retain. Many factors go into a determination of what a position’s essential functions are. Key among them are: (1) whether or not the position exists to perform the function; (2) the number of employees available to perform the functions; and (3) whether the function is highly specialized.
How do I know if my employer took action against me because of my illness or disability?
Rarely do employers come right out and say that they are refusing to hire or are taking action against a qualified disabled person. Instead, employers may complain about your need for a medical leave or complain that you other employees have to cover you when you are out to doctor’s appointments. Or an employer may just make comments that it was easier to work with you before you became disabled or affected by a medical condition.
Is the accommodation I need reasonable?
Employers in California have to provide reasonable accommodations to qualifying disabled employees unless the accommodation would be an undue hardship to the employer’s operations. Reasonable accommodations are measures that are put in place so that a disabled employee can perform the essential functions of their job. Some reasonable accommodations include providing a finite medical leave, providing a modified work schedule, making facilities accessible, or reassigning an employee to a vacation position they are qualified to perform, amongst others.
What is a good faith interactive process?
To determine whether or not a reasonable accommodation can be made without causing an undue hardship to the employer, the employee and employer must engage in a good faith interactive process. Both parties must enter into discussions with one another to ascertain a disabled employee’s job-related limitations and how these limitations can be reasonably overcome. Employers should communicate directly with employees when possible but may, in certain circumstances, be required to interact with an employee’s healthcare representative when the employee is unable to provide the necessary information. The good faith interactive process requires that neither party obstruct the process or withhold information so that a full and complete dialogue about accommodating the employee can be accomplished.
Can my employer take action against me for requesting an accommodation?
No. An employer is prohibited from retaliating against you because you requested an accommodation for your disability and/or medical condition, regardless of whether the accommodation was granted.
What should I do if I think I am being discriminated against because of my disability and/or medical condition?
The first step is to report your disability and the misconduct. In order to have a valid disability discrimination claim, the employer must know about the employee’s disability. If there is any question about whether the employer knows that you have a qualifying disability and/or medical condition, you must tell them. Your reporting puts the employer on notice of their unlawful actions and will further substantiate your possible claim if the discrimination continues.
Further, when you report the misconduct, you give the employer the opportunity to stop it from continuing. In our experience, some employers will recognize when the interactive process has gotten off track or they have failed to act in a manner technically compliant with the law and will correct their direction.
However, if your employer does not respond to your reporting in an appropriate or satisfactory manner, you may wish to pursue a legal claim. In California, disability discrimination claims require that you to file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (https://www.dfeh.ca.gov) no later than one year after the wrongful conduct. Once you file with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing and receive a “right-to-sue notice,” you have one year to file a claim in civil court.
What do I need to provide to the Genie Harrison Law Firm so they can review whether my employer has discriminated against me based on my disability and/or medical condition?
Disability discrimination, failure to accommodate and failure to engage in the interactive process claims are factually complex. The attorneys at the Genie Harrison Law Firm will need to collect quite a bit of information and documents from you in order to assess your case. Please be prepared to provide our lawyers with:
- A chronology of events, including all communications between you and your employer about your illness, your condition(s), your days off, your leave(s), your requests for accommodation, your requests for FMLA or CFRA leave, and your doctor’s notes;
- All of the emails, letters, and doctor’s notes regarding your condition(s), requests for time off and your employer’s responses;
- Your job description;
- An organizational chart of the company or employer;
- Your applications for FMLA or CFRA leave, for short term or long term disability insurance benefits, for state disability and/or for unemployment; and
- Your medical records.
For us to advise you about whether you have a case we can take, we must review as much information as possible because these cases are often highly dependent on the information that is included in documents like those we have listed above.
The bottom line:
If you are feeling that an employer is taking action against you because of your disability or illness, you may very well be right. Disability discrimination claims are complex and require a significant amount of analysis.
Please contact the lawyers at Genie Harrison Law Firm to help you assess whether or not you may have a viable disability discrimination claim. We are passionate, relentless employment lawyers who have earned a solid reputation fighting for California employee rights. Through single-plaintiff, multi-plaintiff and class action cases, we have obtained in excess of $73 million in settlements and verdicts for our clients. But just as significantly, we have improved the working conditions for countless employees. We care about California employee rights, and we make a difference.